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Australians are one of the busiest at work compared to other industrialised countries.
And while it’s difficult to fully disconnect from work as we head home for the day, it is important to understand how well we manage the stress of work interruptions, and think about work during leisure time.
Nearly everyone works with other people – colleagues, supervisors, clients, customers – and this means that we are often interrupted when doing our work. Email, for example, is a major cause of work interruptions.
A recent study suggests that by training ourselves to change the way we view and respond to work interruptions, we may be able to reduce our levels of stress and fatigue both at work and enjoy our personal and leisure time.
There are also some huge benefits forcing employees to switch off when they leave work – it can boost employee retention, productivity and overall company morale.
Research suggests a number of strategies that individuals and organisations could use to better support workers’ capacity to deal positively with work interruptions, and to improve rest and recovery after work.
Here are some simple steps individuals and organisations can start considering too make sure time is spent being productive, and engaged during work hours.
Employees who prioritised efficient use of time while at work, and are able to view work interruptions as positive and constructive, such as providing a welcome break or reducing boredom, are less likely to spend their leisure time thinking about work-related problems.
Recognising the importance of leisure time
Recognising and valuing the importance of leisure time can help employees to “switch off” when not at work. This capacity to detach or “switch off” is important for rest and recovery, which is crucial for sustaining health and well-being in the long-term.
Take up an activity
After the work day has ended, try setting aside 30 minutes for an activity that will allow you to shift gears and pressure. It could be listening to music, going to the gym or a walk, anything that can put your mind in a relaxing trajectory.
Activities like these keep the mind focused on the rules of the game, so it has no room for stressful thoughts. They build positive mood, camaraderie, and self-worth, all of which help counter negative loops.
Organisations could look at providing training courses in time and task management; this could include assertiveness training with regard to managing interruptions.
Reducing work intensification
Management in organisations can also play a role in reducing work intensification and the spill over of work tasks and communication into leisure time. Small things such as email communications could be limited to daytime hours not evenings and weekends.
Management to prioritise
Most managerial and executive roles present more challenges with regard to managing the boundary between work and non-work time. One strategy worth trying is to set periods of time when particular individuals are unavailable and not expected to respond to work communications or engage in work tasks, such as evenings and weekends of non-availability.
It is important to remember we need to pace ourselves, and aim for work-life balances too not only look after our health and well-being, but to sustain our capacity to work well in jobs that are often demanding of our time and energy.
This means both building our skills in coping with work demands, but also recognising and valuing the quality of our family and leisure time away from work.
Remember “Stress Is Optional.”