If you’re one of the 57% of workers who send work-related emails to your colleagues after working hours, then it’s time to stop. A recent Australian-based study found that working out of hours puts employees at great risk of burnout. Burnout in the workplace happens when the individual is exhausted, detached, and stressed out at work. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you don’t fall victim to burnout.
Take regular breaks away
More than 50% of workers don’t take all their allotted vacation days off work, according to Marketplace. It’s crucial that you use up your vacation days as they contribute to a positive work/life balance. Research shows that taking time off work is good for both your physical and mental health. It can also increase your productivity and attitude when you return to the workplace. The study found that emotional exhaustion is higher in workers who are expected to respond to out-of-hours-emails than those who weren’t. So, avoid temptation and protect your health by switching off all your devices and don’t check your emails until you return from your vacation.
The researchers also found that the employees who put boundaries in place were less stressed and felt less pressure than those that didn’t. If you’ve fallen into the trap of responding to electronic communications outside of your standard working hours, now is the time to put your foot down and say no. Your mental health at work will be better when you do this and it will ease a lot of the stress and anxiety you’ve been feeling. Burnout can also be avoided by outsourcing some of your work. If you’re overloaded, you’re not going to be able to do your job well and your stress levels will mount up. Review the tasks you need to do and see who can help you complete them. Make sure you don’t take on anymore jobs until you’ve completed the ones that are already on your to-do list either.
Focus on your work-life balance
Responding to work emails in your free time can have a real impact on your family life. A study carried out by Lehigh University found that responding to work-related communications out of hours reduced the workers’ work-life balance. It also stops you from switching off mentally from work, which puts you at greater risk of burnout. To ensure your relationships with your family remain healthy, set aside dedicated family time. This could be one full day at the weekend where you do an activity together. You could also pledge to cook and eat together every evening to improve your bond.
Ditch your electronics
The problem with modern technology is that it can be taken anywhere. It’s also possible for your colleagues to contact you on multiple devices and to see whether you’ve received and read their messages. 36% of employees say it’s standard practice in the organization they work for to respond to out of hours emails and similar communications straight away. If you’re concerned that you won’t be able to stop yourself from responding to a work-related email or text as soon as you receive it, turn off all your devices. You could even lock them away after each of your shifts and on the weekends. Another option is to leave them in the office when you’ve finished work for the day.
Improve your physical health
Poor physical health was reported in 28% of workers who felt the need to respond to emails at the weekends. Burnout puts you at risk of multiple health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, coronary heart disease, and stroke, among others. If you’re battling stress at work, exercise is a great way to improve your mood and your physical health. 14% of people say they use exercise to control their stress, with walking and running being the most popular physical activities used. One study concluded that cardiovascular exercise lowered distress, stress, and exhaustion among workers and so may be an effective treatment for burnout.
Discuss alternative arrangements
Employees who received work related communication on weekends were more likely to say they experienced psychological distress than workers who had the weekends to themselves. Psychological distress can be caused by burnout. But it can also be a sign that you’re at risk of burnout, if you don’t take swift action. You need to remove as many stressful triggers from your working life as possible. If out of hours contact is a crucial part of your job, come to an arrangement with your boss where you agree you can only be contacted before a set time. Or, you could come to a compromise where you’ll only be contacted by one higher-ranking colleague in the event of an emergency. Of course, you could also have a meeting with your boss and HR to discuss the impact of these out of hours communications on your health and call for a blanket ban on them. There’s a good chance that your co-workers will be feeling the strain too and when you speak out, they’ll follow your lead.
Worker burnout is a serious problem that too many employees across the world are dealing with. One of the biggest contributors to this is out-of-hour communications. To ensure you stay in good health, avoid checking your emails and take action to boost your mood and your working day now.