Work follows us everywhere we go. When you start a new job, you’re asked to provide your cellphone number, download all communication apps on your phone, hey sometimes they even ask for you to download time management software to track your time. With technology making it easier than ever for employers and employees to communicate, when are you supposed to disconnect?
I don’t consider myself a workaholic, even though to many people I am. But, I do know that the lines between office hours, side hustles, personal businesses, and life are often blurred or even nonexistent for me. What do I mean by this? Well, I’m that person that answers work emails and communications after hours without feeling that there’s something wrong with that. To my coworkers, my lines of communications are open 24/7, and while that sounds nice, that’s an issue.
The Downside of Not Disconnecting
To understand the benefits of disconnecting from the office after hours, we must look at what happens when we neglect to do so. Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is burnout. That’s a given. However, there’s much more than that.
One study in 2018 found that nearly 2/3 of professionals believe their work stress levels are significantly higher than five years ago. Another study found that the time spent on emails and the company’s expectations on employees’ ability to monitor work emails after hours almost always leads to emotional exhaustion. To top it all, another study among employees age 25 and up found that 61% of respondents find it challenging not to think about work over the weekend. And most astonishingly that 63% of employers expect them to work on the weekends.
See the challenge here? But, when you look at studies showing how after-hour emails impact your stress levels and family, it’s easy to see why disconnecting is paramount.
How to Unplug after Hours
While not everyone has the luxury to ignore their boss’ emails after hours, you can lay down some boundaries. Hopefully, you’re working with a caring individual and a team of supportive coworkers that understand the importance of disconnecting. When faced with the question about responding to communications after hours, be transparent about your boundaries. Let your supervisor know that you’re willing to respond to emails or other communications until certain hours and that weekends and holidays are off the table, for example.
When you set boundaries from the beginning, it becomes easier to manage the time you spend working outside office hours.
- Schedule yourself a reminder to leave work. Use the same calendar system you use at work but for your personal life.
- If an email is non-critical, stop responding to these. Don’t let the pressure of answering to every communication take over. This might take time to adopt, but keep trying.
- Start a new routine that forces you to unplug completely. For me, I schedule myself a fitness class every night to mark my time when I stop thinking about work.
Benefits of Disconnecting from Work after Hours
Looking at the downside of not unplugging, you can easily see some of the benefits. The funniest part is that disconnecting from work not only benefits you, but it will help your company as well.
Reduces Your Stress Levels
One university study found that unplugging from work after hours is vital for your brain to function at full capacity. Failing to disconnect increases your psychological stress levels, which leads to fatigue and burnout.
Improves Your Relationships
You already spend anywhere between eight to nine hours in the office. Not to mention the extra two hours you spend communing. How many hours do you have left to spend with your loved ones? Checking emails, answering phone calls, double-checking deliverables, all of that adds up, taking away time from you and your family. Besides, when you and your partner both drag the work-related stress to the home and carry it throughout the weekend, it can intensify arguments and eventually take a toll on the relationship.
Makes You More Productive
You probably think this is counterintuitive, but hear me out. As employees, we stay working late and answer midnight emails to show how committed we are to our jobs. However, because you’re constantly multi-tasking, always on your feet, and never slowing down, the quality of your work likely suffers. When your brain is always “at work,” it will shut down at one point, whether you want it to or not.
A Note from GR8NESS
Whether you’re the CEO or an intern, consider the importance of disconnecting from work after hours. You owe it to your body, mind, and spirit to do so. But, you also owe it to your friends and family, partners, and even your pets! While this might sound cliche, finding work-life balance is the key to a successful career.