Home Lifestyle Working longer hours can be harmful to your mental health- expert

Working longer hours can be harmful to your mental health- expert


Working longer hours can be harmful to your mental and physical health

WORKING longer hours or never feeling like you’re away from work can be harmful to your mental and physical health, so the always-working, no-time-off paradigm is a problem.

In encouraging employees to take care of themselves this holiday season, and eliminate the no-work guilt feeling, Anja van Beek, Talent Strategist, Leadership & HR Expert and Executive Coach shared some insights on how to “leave” by example.

She referenced a World Health Organization (WHO) study that found that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.

The importance of recovery

High performing individuals, aka corporate athletes, understand that there should be a balance between stress (energy expenditure) and recovery (energy renewal). They are aware that being in survival mode most of the time is a red flag for any individual. Think of an athlete which has a rest and recovery time during the off-season. High performers or corporate athletes need a proper break to replenish their energy.

But, an annual break isn’t sufficient. Prioritise your day by dividing it into regular shorter breaks. Steer away from back-to-back meetings and create rituals for the teams to do a mindful check-ins.

Close off the year as a team. Reflect retrospectively

As a team, create a ritual of closing off the year in a deliberate way. Most people can relate with outstanding or incomplete items taking up space in your mind – especially as your planned leave is nearing. An easy way to ensure we all can have a “worry-free” holiday and not ruminate about work, is to do a retrospective.

A practical exercise is to monitor how many hours you spend ruminating about work. Keep a record of this and you may be surprised how much time and energy you are wasting.

Secondly, define your own “psychological leave ritual” — similar to changing clothes and putting on your slacks after a workday. Do the same before going on leave.

Here are a few other tips to consider:

  • Write your list of to-do-items for your first work-week back, schedule your meetings in advance (preferably not your first workday!);
  • Be proactive: Before your holiday, discuss and agree on a plan with your manager to ensure there’s cover for your work tasks in your absence;
  • Do craft a helpful “Out of Office” reply saying who can be contacted in case of emergency;

If you are part of a team, agree upfront that, should there be a crisis, to not use e-mail communication but rather a WhatsApp or a phone call.

Some people even prefer to delete all work-related apps from their phones.

Cape Times

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