How to avoid job burnout

The festive season is supposed to be fun, but for many feeling overwhelmed by work and family commitments, it is anything but.

Fortunately, there are ways to establish a better work-life balance during this exhausting time of the year.

Working non-stop

A University of Toronto study found that as many as 50% of people bring their work home with them regularly. And even if you don’t plan to work after office hours, smart phone email and instant messages services can make us feel like we’re always ‘on duty.’

In our ‘always connected culture,’ research from Kansas State University found that people who are unable to unplug from work activities have higher levels of fatigue and job burnout than those who try to keep their work in office hours.

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Another study found that simply feeling that there is an expectation to answer work emails after hours has been linked to emotional exhaustion. And if you think this situation could improve with a promotion, think again. Another study found that it gets harder the higher up the corporate ladder you climb.

How job burnout affects your health

The result of working almost non-stop is job burnout.

Defined as physical, cognitive, and emotional exhaustion caused by stress at work, studies have linked job burnout with obesity, insomnia and anxiety.

Job burnout could even be deadly. According to a Tel Aviv University study, there is a link between job burnout and coronary heart disease (CHD), the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries that leads to angina and heart attacks.

How to reclaim your ‘me-time’

It’s obvious, the more time spent working the less ‘me-time’ you have. And although some scoff at the term, ‘me-time’ is important for your health and well-being. Researchers found that people who experience high quality ‘me-time’ enjoy a better work-life balance, well-being and are more engaged at work.

In fact, another study found that people who are able to unplug from work activities after work experience higher levels of life satisfaction than those who continue working long after clocking out.

These and other studies are convincing a few companies and even some countries to make big changes, like France, which passed a labour reform law banning the checking of work emails over weekends.

While moving to France may not be an option for all of us, there are a few practical ways to avoid job burnout…

  • Log off – Obviously, you shouldn’t open your work emails from home, but you may also want to remove that email app from your phone or the message alert from your home desktop. Even if you don’t answer them, simply being notified about after-hours work emails and can cause you to stress about your work to-do list and interrupt your family and me-time.
  • Respect your own time – The truth is, if you don’t respect and prioritise your off-time, no one will. If you need to, politely let your colleagues know that you have obligations – whether it’s family time or your gym session – after work that makes answering calls, instant messages and emails difficult.
  • When you have to reply – Urgent issues do arise, however, if you do get an after-hours message to respond as soon as possible and the matter is in not urgent (or it’s simply a colleague wanting to gossip), reply politely saying that you will respond as soon as you get into the office the next day. Your colleagues will soon realise that you prefer to keep work in work hours, where it belongs.

Sources: Kansas State UniversityBritish Psychological Society and the University of Toronto via ScienceDaily