Why You Should Spend More Time Setting Boundaries, and Less Worrying about Work

9 April 2019

Let's set the scene: You've had a long day at work - a full eight hours, and you even came in a bit early to do some prep work in the morning. The weekly meeting earlier today was pointless as usual, you've been assigned more work than you can finish, and your coworker isn't doing quite the job they should so you have to clean up their sloppy mess. After a full hour and a half commute, all you want to do is relax at home.

Then you hear your phone go off. It's work. Whether it's a text, a call, or an email, someone is trying to contact you after hours.

Should you respond to it?

The answer should be "no," but many people wouldn't agree. In fact, in a time when it's so easy to contact people, many would assume that ignoring work is rude. However, responding is actually worse for your health.

Studies have shown that not having a proper work-life balance is causing employees to experience more stress and anxiety. The constant communication is also creating a strain on productivity, creativity, and even personal relationships.

142 full-time workers and their spouses were surveyed on the subject of communication with their employers outside work hours. Questions included topics such as mental health and well-being, and how obligated they feel to respond to electronic communication among other things. The results showed that 100 of the 142 felt compelled to respond.  Those who said they communicate during off-hours say they also reported they experience problems with their mental health and well-being.

The stress and anxiety are easy to understand. No one really wants to work during their time off, even if that includes responding to a few emails. What you might not have considered was how that affects personal relationships.

By engaging with work after hours, employees are spending less time with their families and loved ones. This can cause the relationship quality to drop and ultimately projects the stress of work onto others. It also limits the amount of time and quality of social interactions with the people around them.

The best way to combat fatigue and stress is merely putting up proper boundaries. Remember, your brain is a muscle, so it needs to be treated as such. Not giving it time to take a break will only make it sore and put more strain on it. Working hard doesn't mean working all the time, so relaxing the brain is essential.

A few suggestions from professionals include getting as much done as you can during work hours. While you are on the clock, it’s important to make a structure for yourself. Following even a few daily rituals will help you keep on track and provide you with significant time for yourself at the end of the day.

Make one or two allotted time blocks to check emails during work hours. Whatever it is, it can wait until you have time to respond. Also, try to focus on one task at a time instead of multi-tasking. Working on one assignment at a time produces better results than juggling multiple uncompleted ones. Don’t forget to take your breaks at work to clear your mind. Working through lunch might help you get Jerry from finance off your back, but that doesn't give you the chance to refresh. Being able to step away from what you’re doing makes you more productive and efficient.

Making a schedule and routine isn’t just restricted to work, though. If it's possible, setting up scheduled activities with loved ones is highly suggested. Being social with friends and family is a massive boost to mental health. It can also act as a way for someone else in your life to set time aside for themselves.

Of course, with the “Always On” culture that we’re currently experiencing, these results shouldn't be a surprise. What is shocking, though is that taking time to help yourself is frowned upon. With this double standard, it can be hard to make the choice that feels right to you. Hopefully, the study can be a starting point for a conversation about healthy work and life mentality.

Something important to consider is that at the end of the day, your work doesn't love you.
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