Thanks to our 24/7 digital world, it’s rare to find a job that neatly fits into the nine to five window. Whether it’s answering emails on our morning commute or checking Facebook, having a smartphone in our pocket means we’re often expected to be available around the clock. Unsurprisingly, this is not good for our health or wellbeing.
A new study conducted by Virginia Tech found that checking your emails after hours could have a serious negative impact on your health and relationships. The research looked at the habits of 297 university employees and found that the blurred line between work and life was increasing their anxiety levels.
“Our research exposes the reality, [that] ‘flexible work boundaries’ often turn into ‘work without boundaries,’ compromising an employee's and their family's health and wellbeing,” co-author William Becker explained.
While getting late night emails is one issue, there are unfortunately numerous ways modern working patterns can have a negative impact on our wellbeing. However, it doesn’t necessarily need to be that way. With the right boundaries you can master that elusive work-life balance and not let work ruin your wellbeing. Just follow these expert-approved tips.
1. Set clear boundaries.
“It’s very easy for work to take over if there are time gaps to fill. Make yourself leave on time by booking something after work. For example, sign up for a gym class, buy cinema tickets, or make a reservation for dinner,” career coach Alice Stapleton suggests. Similarly, take away the temptation to work in the evening by “leaving essential equipment such as your laptop or work phone in the office.” Life coach Jacqueline Hirst recommends allowing yourself “a twenty minute window” when you get home to relax and transition from work mode to relax mode. Jacqueline suggests “a shower, exercise, or time doing absolutely nothing" before getting on with your evening.
2. Learn to say no.
Self-confidence is fundamental in learning to say no. “Focus on your successes not your challenges,” career coach Anna Percy-Davis proposes. If in doubt, fake it ‘till you make it. “Act confidently as this engenders respect and will help you feel confident,” she elaborated. When saying no, it’s important to frame it in a positive light and give a solution. “‘I’d love to help you with that report but my work schedule is so busy, I won’t be able to help you until Thursday’. This kind of response indicates you can help, but just not right now. If you feel like you can’t say no straight away, simply say you’ll come back to them, assess the situation, and then go back with your response,” Pandora Symes, founder of ROOTED LONDON, suggests.
3. Plan and Prioritize
Avoid feeling overwhelmed by keeping your to-do list realistic and highlighting tasks that are of the highest priority. “Set manageable goals for the day and the week, not everything rolled onto one messy page that promotes anxiety to set in,” Symes recommends.
4. Ask for help.
If work has become too much, speak to someone about it. “It’s alright to ask for help as long as you do it both professionally and honestly,” Percy-Davis highlights. “Just remember to speak to your boss or line manager in a clear, pragmatic, and positive way as possible.”
5. Think about the bigger picture.
When we get caught up in work, it can be easy to dramatize or place unrealistic importance on the decisions we’re making or projects we’re doing. “When you’re 90, it won’t matter how hard you worked or how many deadlines you hit,” Stapleton points out. Instead, think about the tasks at hand in relation to the bigger picture. “Take a moment to step back and think about whether the issue you’re worrying will be important in a day, month, or year. Once you’ve gained perspective you can revisit it with a fresh perspective,” Hirst said.
6. Digital Detox
“Agree with yourself a reasonable time period in the evening and at weekends when you put your phone on ‘flight mode,’” Stapleton said. If this is not possible, try limiting your access to certain apps. “Delete or log out of apps that are likely to tempt you in to checking your phone,” Stapleton added.
7. Make time for self-care.
Self-care doesn’t have to mean fancy spa days or expensive bath oils — it’s actually much simpler. Anna recommends to “regularly practice SWEEB: ensuring you prioritize sleeping, water, eating, exercising, and breathing.” Similarly, learning to rest is key as well. “Your mind is like a muscle, and it's one you can train. You train your brain to work, and you need to train your brain to rest, too,” Hirst emphasizes. In your downtime away from work, make sure you spend time switching off completely.
This article was originally written by Elizabeth Bennett. For more, check out our sister site, Grazia.