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Working Hard or Overworking? Why You Should Relax

Working Hard or Overworking? Why You Should Relax
Credit: Stokkete/Shutterstock

Are you constantly checking your work email? Working through the weekend and on your days off? Taking phone calls from the office at any and all hours? While you're certainly not alone, you're probably also way more stressed out than you should be.

Numerous studies have shown that overworked employees are at a much higher risk for physical, mental and emotional health issues. A recent New Yorker article cited research that linked various problems with several years of working up to 120 hours per week. Those issues included depression, anxiety, fatigue and immune system problems, in addition to a decline in productivity and work quality. And yet, many companies still encourage and even expect their employees to remain connected and responsive 24/7, simply because mobile technology allows for it.

"In our ultra-competitive, hyper-connected world, stress and overwork are increasingly linked with success," said Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of workplace stress management solution provider meQuilibrium. "We wear being overly busy as a badge of honor. [We think that] the harder you work and the more stressed you are, the more committed, ambitious and successful you are, too."

Bruce said it's worth asking yourself what exactly you're so busy doing. Busy-ness often acts as the enemy of focus and productivity, she said, so the trick is to streamline, prioritize and manage your efforts in ways that allow you to do your best work without tapping out completely. [3 Ways to Maintain Work-Life Balance While Staying Connected]

Readjusting your notion of work expectations starts with setting boundaries. Instead of keeping your smartphone on and with you at all times, designate certain periods of the day when all work-related issues are off limits.

"Take frequent breaks and renew yourself," Bruce said. "You'll become calmer and gain greater ability to focus as a result. Maybe there's a logout hour in the mornings where you can make headway before the onslaught of emails begins."

Bruce also recommended putting your phone away during meals, taking long walks without your phone and spending one day a week off the grid when possible.

But the onus isn't just on employees to change this culture of overwork: Leaders need to pave the way for an environment that allows staff to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

"Managers should personally and professionally embrace responsibility for the work ethic [in their offices]," Bruce told Business News Daily. "This means examining your own position on overwork and stress. Are you buying the more-is-better approach? Are you pushing yourself beyond capacity? What are you doing day-to-day to care for your health?"

Making small changes to workplace policies can go a long way toward bringing about that sense of balance. For example, you can make it clear that you don't expect your employees to respond during certain hours, or adjust people's workloads and tasks to best fit their personal work style.

"People can't change by themselves," Bruce said. "Leaders have the opportunity to give people the tools to be able to change. We won't make it if we don't change the way we work. When we manage the relationship between working and renewing, we'll be more sustainable and likely more efficient."

Originally published on Business News Daily

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.