For many businesses, the ability for both managers and employees to work away from the office has proven to be revolutionary. Remote working means employees are contactable regardless of where they’re based, but is logging off really the same as clocking out?
Whilst advancements in technology benefit us in so many ways, it can also lead to uncertainty when establishing work-life balance. Being able to work away from a desk leaves almost a third of us feeling like we can never fully switch off.1 In fact, 40% of people admit to checking their work emails, after work hours, at least five times a day.2
A 2017 HSE study found that over fifteen million of the UK’s working days were lost because of workplace stress,3 which is sometimes referred to as ‘burnout’.4 This implies that a lot of us are working beyond our contracted hours because of remote working. Whilst some forms of burnout can motivate good performance under pressure, repeated exposure to stressful triggers, without the ability to recover from them, can cause long-term detrimental effects to our wellbeing and health.5
Prolonged workplace stressors can become particularly expensive for smaller businesses. Taking an active interest in employee wellbeing can help to avoid costs associated with absences, including reputational damage and extra spending on sickness pay, or temporary staff.6
Stress’s effect on your mind, body and business
Have you ever had a tough day at work and then found yourself snapping at a loved one (who didn’t really deserve it)? Or have you been faced with a tirade of deadlines, but couldn’t find the motivation to tackle a single task? How about your sleep: has your racing mind resulted in a lack of slumber?
Stress can affect our moods and behaviours, as well as our physiological responses.7 Being aware of stressors, identifying their sources, and spotting how they influence productivity can help to manage their effects in the workplace. Research by OnePoll found that 85% of UK staff believe that their employer has an obligation to look after their health.8 Additionally, employees who are engaged in their own health and wellbeing take fewer sick days and perform better at work.9
Running a small business can be stressful in itself. Encouraging a culture that not only recognises that work isn’t always a walk in the park, but also promotes a healthy and realistic work/life balance can benefit your business, reduce staff turnover10 and improve how the company is perceived as a brand.
Finding your post-work Zen begins before you’ve even turned off your laptop for the day. Research shows that it’s really important to try and detach yourself from work outside of working hours, in order to recharge your batteries and perform to your full potential.11 Be realistic and logical about any short notice work requests you receive and any that you delegate: is the deadline genuinely achievable within the set timeframe, and would you be happy with the work’s standard, if it were to be completed within that time? If the answer isn’t ‘yes’ to both of these questions, don’t be afraid to postpone the task until a later time. Promoting a culture that recognises the realistic capacities of others can help reduce work-based stresses eating into home life.
Plan your post-work schedule
You might think you’ve successfully left work worries at your front door, but if you’re suffering from sleepless nights from worrying, try taking some practical steps to shut down your mind and shake up your schedule. A routine is a great way to signal to your brain that work time is over and home life has begun.
Try cycling, going to a gym class, jogging, yoga or dancing: find something you enjoy that gets your heart pumping and do it regularly. Exercise is beneficial for both your physical and mental health and can improve your sleep quality.12
Cut back on stimulants
Even if you’ve had an especially tiring or stressful day, don’t be tempted to self-medicate with stimulants like caffeine, sugar, nicotine or alcohol. Whilst you may feel a short-term pick-me-up, you might find yourself more stressed in the long run and struggling to nod off.13
Screening your screen use
If your work days involve prolonged screen use, taking some time away from your phone, tablet, laptop and TV in the evening naturally helps to create a divide between these two aspects of your life. If possible, prohibit any work-related notifications until your next workday, so you’re not tempted to read them as soon as they hit your phone.
Create your own little sanctuary
Find somewhere just for you, whether that’s a comfortable chair, or out in the garden or park; somewhere that you can take at least twenty minutes to unwind and take some time for yourself.14 Why not take this time to listen to a mindfulness podcast, or get stuck into a book?
Work demons still niggling?
We spend a lot of our lives at work, so naturally a lot of our worries may stem from here. These worries could be in relation to your workload, or could be to do with team tensions. It’s not always easy to shut off these thoughts completely, especially if they’re ongoing or unresolved. Writing down your worries, or using our interactive worry tree can help distinguish the source of your thoughts and help establish healthy steps to resolve, or come to terms with them.