Do you ever feel as if you’re doing the job of three people? You probably are. Lay-offs, workplace reductions, and budget cuts have increased employees’ responsibilities across the board. Unfortunately, this increased workload is taking a toll on our well-being. For many people, work has become all-consuming. According to an article in the Daily Mail, 40% of workers admit they’re ‘unhappy’, half of adults think their stress levels have risen in the last year, and a third of people are consumed by thoughts of work from the minute they wake up.
Take Jim for example. On his first day at a fast-growing start-up, the president of the company handed him a BlackBerry and said, “Keep this with you at all times.”
After numerous late-night and weekend e-mail exchanges and phone calls, Jim soon learned that there was no concept of detachment from work at this company. In a matter of months, Jim’s job began to seriously interfere with his relationships with his wife and friends.
Luckily, Jim’s story has a happy ending. Less than a year after being handed that BlackBerry, he left the company for a job that allowed him to have a life. But for many, the concept of a real life outside of work is like a unicorn—it might exist, but you haven’t seen it. A study conducted by the Hay Group found that half of employees believe their current workload is unsustainable.
Allowing your job take over your life is a slippery slope of misery. Research shows that overworked employees are less healthy, less happy, and more likely to engage in passive coping behaviors like overeating, drinking, or drugs.
If you can relate and want to prevent your job from ruining your life, follow these three tips to end the madness:
Work Fewer Hours by Using Your Time Wisely
We live in a society where the number of hours we spend at work can be a barometer for our self-worth. Because I spend twelve hours per day at work, I must be important and valuable. This reasoning is dangerous and illogical. It is not a crime to do things efficiently; if you can get the same result in eight hours versus ten and spend two more hours with your family, do it. More hours at work don’t always make you more productive.
Take Regular Power Breaks
Just like Jim discovered, being tethered to your e-mail 24/7 isn’t a good idea. One study examined the effect of uninterrupted work on our ability to focus. The researchers asked two groups of students to complete a forty-minute task that required concentration. One group simply completed the task. The other group was asked to stop the task and memorize a set of numbers at three points while they completed it.
The results were striking. Even though the second group spent less time on the task, they performed better. Viewing the numbers served as a power break – something that let them briefly turn their attention from the task to something else.
Similarly, power breaks help us perform better. Schedule mini-vacations with your family, take a walk during your lunch hour, carve out evenings and weekends to escape your “technology tether.” Find what works for you.
Manage Stress by Exercising
There’s a great deal of evidence that shows how exercise reduces stress. In particular, high-intensity workouts have proven effective in reducing anxiety. And recent research suggests that exercise actually decreases work-family conflict. In a study of 476 workers, Russell Clayton and his colleagues found that people who exercised regularly had less conflict between work and home. Why? Because exercise can be a powerful way to “psychologically detach from work.”
These three tips will help you to be more productive at work and reclaim your life away from the office.
photo by Elvert Barnes
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