Advice column: how can I break the habit of checking emails round the clock?
I find it really difficult to switch off from work after leaving the office. I have become used to checking my emails at all times of the night, and often find myself responding to emails late into the night. As I have a work mobile, I have also been known to take calls after returning home. This is beginning to impact on my health, as I constantly feel anxious and under pressure due to being unable to de-stress and relax. It is also having an impact on my family life; recently I felt compelled to attend to emails during a family holiday, which irritated my partner. However, I feel that I have set a precedent at work and it may now be tricky to confirm to colleagues that I am no longer available after normal office hours.
You are not alone in feeling the pressure to work harder and longer hours. As a consequence of the increased availability of technology, coupled with employers failing to maintain an adequate spread of resources to deal with the demands of the business, employees are increasingly feeling compelled to sacrifice their work/life balance.
However, although in today’s climate, you may be expected to, on occasion, work the extra hours required, it is not something you should either be expected or pressurised into accepting as the norm. If you do continue on this path, you face the possibility of burning yourself out completely and being signed off with stress and mental exhaustion.
The circumstances you describe seem to suggest you have essentially become a workaholic, albeit a reluctant one. You therefore need to start weaning yourself slowly but surely away from work pressures.
I appreciate that with the provision of work mobiles and iPads there is a tendency to deal with matters after leaving the office, but you should devise a rule whereby you switch off these devices after a specific time each day. It may even be that you only undertake to check your emails after work on specific days of the week, thereby slowly reducing the time you spend working from home. The more you switch off from any temptation to check emails and to respond after working hours, the more other colleagues/ clients will get the message that you simply are not available 24 hours a day.
Try also to adopt some relaxation methods after returning home, in order to attempt to switch off mentally from work pressures: for example, take a relaxing bath, read a book or go to the gym. Find whatever methods work for you and try to incorporate this activity into your weekly timetable.
Life is short, and it is always important to put work matters into context by remembering the old adage that we should work in order to live, and not live in order to work.
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