We’re all too familiar with the term ‘work-life balance’. However, according to Afresh Performance Coach, Deirdre Cronnelly, it’s in need of a refresh. The pressures of the modern world, our relationship with tech and the new hybrid model which many of us have embraced, have all changed the way we work. “The work-life balance concept is outdated”, says Deirdre. “We need to focus now on the work-life ‘merge’.”
Are You Always On?
We live in an always-on, tech-heavy society where busyness is worn as a badge of honour. For Deirdre, this is problematic. “We’re ‘always on’ and this, in part, is down to technology”, she explains. “How do we expect ourselves to be switched on mentally when we aren’t taking the time out to recharge our minds and bodies properly?” Aidan Healy, Co-Founder of UnPlug agrees. “When we check in on work outside of hours, it puts our body into an alert state,” he explains. “That stays with us for much longer than we think. When you run that cycle of alertness through days, weeks and months you see increased levels of stress, low employee satisfaction, lower engagement and increased levels of burnout.”
The Exhaustion Funnel
As important as it is to recharge, some employers are still coming to terms with what that means for their business. “When some managers hear the term ‘unplug’, they fear it means less work,” Aidan notes. In fact, some people often now consider essential things like eating, sleeping and relationships as optional! “This is referred to as the ‘exhaustion funnel’”, says Deirdre. “We no longer pay enough attention to them, because we’re working so much. We tend to let work take over completely, and self-care goes out the window.”
The Importance of Switching Off
So, what’s the solution? “First”, says Aidan, “we need to identify the reasons why we feel the need to constantly check in outside of working hours. Often, it’s because we have a fear of missing something important or want to be valued and included by managers.” Deidre agrees. “We need to give employees personal responsibility, and help people understand the importance of switching off. Whether you’re someone who works well bright and early at 6am, or you don’t perform your best until 11pm, you just need to figure out your own rhythm. Employers need to honour and respect employees by trusting them to know their own work patterns.”
As well as mental time-outs, physical boundaries are more important than ever, given that many of us work from home at least some of the time. Aidan has some advice. “Often our devices are left on the couch next to us at home, triggering our brains to think, ‘I haven’t checked-in in a while, there might be something going on.’ We find that people are picking up their devices for stuff that isn’t important.” Be mindful about the tech you surround yourself with when you’re having your downtime.” Doing the things you love, immersing yourself in nature and spending quality time with family will also help you stay connected.
If you’re feeling very overwhelmed or anxious, reach out to a family member, friend or healthcare professional.
The Lyons Health Insurance Team.
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