Updated: Aug 23
The next time you reach to answer a call from work after office hours or you are about to log in to your work email after dinner – STOP and think again.
Research from Ariane Wepfer of the University of Zurich in Switzerland found that employees who did not have clear separation between their work and free time were less likely to take part in activities that could help them relax and recover from the demands of their work. These poor work life boundaries resulted in increased exhaustion and a lower sense of balance and well-being in the other areas of the participants lives.
This is particularly worrying given the ever-increasing expectation that many people feel to always be available – answering work related emails and calls outside of work hours and the even more insidious trend of taking work/laptops away on holidays or breaks.
Technological advances and increased connectivity have brought untold benefits. However increasingly we are seeing the downside of this in the negative effects of over stimulation, and the increasing cost to our mental, physical and emotional health wellbeing of always effectively having to be ‘on’ and available.
It’s bad news for business too as the poor demarcation between work and life has a knock on negative effect on productivity and creativity. So the short term gain of being able to reach a colleague in their non work time could be causing longer term deficits in their future contribution to their organisation.
Although the research does not cover this it would interesting to see if the results are similar for self- employed / entrepreneurial small businesses, where it could be argued that creating the boundaries between work and life are even more challenging. Here, work hours may be more fluid and the demands and pressures even higher as survival may depend on business success. In these situations, the propensity for work to spill over into all areas of life may be even greater.
Wepfer and her team believe that “that companies should have policies and interventions in place to help their employees to segment different aspects of their lives better, to their own benefit” which is commendable. In the meantime however, maybe it’s time we all pushed back a little and set our own boundaries and demarcations, ensuring that we pay full attention to the aspect of life we are currently occupying.
When you are in work - be in work 100% - full attention, focus and energy. When out of work do the same – switch everything off (this message isn't new) and engage with your relationships and the other aspects of your non work life with 100% attention, focus and energy.
Career Resilience and longevity and health and wellbeing are inextricably linked and should be of paramount importance to businesses and employees alike. Both parties should be responsible for integrating more and better balanced and beneficial practices in the workplace to maintain a healthy bottom line and an engaged, creative and motivated workforce.
If you are struggling with work life demarcation try my free Health and Wellbeing Reboot here.