Beat The Burn
Technology has given us the ability to work from anywhere, but does that mean that we’re expected to work from everywhere? The opportunity to work from home or the coffee shop sounds like it should reduce stress levels, but that’s not always the case.
“The trend in South Africa and in the world is towards a more flexi-hour approach in the workplace. South Africa is definitely leading this charge,” says life coach Sonja Broschk.
While being able to work from anywhere sounds like a solid win, Broschk says these “always-on” people suffer a special kind of stress. While they don’t have to worry about traffic jams or getting up early, they need to be constantly connected in case someone needs to get hold of them, or worry if they will have enough battery life. “It absolutely comes with its own challenges and stressors,” she says.
It’s not just about flexible hours, either. In 2017, France began enforcing employees the “right to disconnect” and refuse to respond to out-of-hours emails. This was a response to concerns that being always available equates to never switching off. A Deloitte study found that 79% of managers worked or checked email in the evening, and so did half of non-managerial staff. According to one study, published in the International Journal of Management and Applied Research, 97% of participants in one survey had seen no difference at all in attitudes towards overtime since the law came into force.
Occupational therapist Lesley Burns says that when flexible working hours are approved, it generally means that quality of work is more important to the company than actual hours put in. But a culture that reflects this needs to come from the top. CEOs and directors need to stipulate what is and what is not acceptable, and put boundaries in place. No one is available 24 hours day, so personal and professional activities need to be prioritised equally.
Burns says burnout is marked by exhaustion, inefficacy and cynicism, and is caused not only by excessive work demands and working hours, but by lack of autonomy, lack of positive feedback, poor interpersonal relationships, unfairness and having to go against personal values.
“Being expected to be constantly available results in a person being unable to fully relax and properly engage in other life activities. If this goes on for an extended period of time, it will place the person’s physical and mental wellness, interpersonal relationships, and executive functioning at risk of serious damage,” says Burns.
But how do you switch off?
“The entire mindset of switching off is very difficult to do for some. Many employees struggle with this, which leads to health concerns, depression, anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, to mention a few health concerns,” says owner of Life Force Health and Wellness Dr Kirasha Allopi.
Allopi urges employers to ensure an open and honest line of communication exists between them and their employees.
Tips to prevent burnout
Life coach Sonja Broschk shares her advice:
1) Keep reasonable working hours and set boundaries.
2) Schedule breaks.
3) Write your stress triggers in a journal.
4) Learn how to relieve your stress quickly and easily.
5) Build your emotional quotient.
7) Have a good morning routine.
8) Take responsibility.
9) Learn to say no.
Did you know?
Some firms offer employees a certain allowance of days for unscheduled time off, known as “duvet days”. In other words, when you just don’t feel like getting up and want to switch off the alarm and go back to bed, for a few days a year, you can. The trend was started in the UK and proponents argue that it enhances productivity.