The 24/7 working life – why things need to change

The way we work is evolving.

For decades, our commitment to our work has been defined by how much time we spend in the office. We’ve been trained to think that more is better, that putting in longer shifts, spending more of our personal lives thinking about our jobs, and getting in earlier and finishing later are the only real ways to show our dedication.

But as businesses become more and more progressive, and the conversation gradually opens up around mental health, it’s time for that to change.

It’s time for us to redefine what it means to be dedicated to our jobs.

Dedication, Commitment, and Long Hours

We all hear the stories. We hear about those who get up at five in the morning, who drop everything to answer a work call on a weekend, and who come home late in the evening, pulling longer shifts to ‘get a headstart on tomorrow’.

Whether subconsciously or consciously, we think of these colleagues as dedicated to the idea of a job well done. We consider their extra efforts to be the first to arrive and last to leave as a strong commitment to business and company. Sometimes we look up to them as the ideal, striving to be as good as they are at their jobs.

With the dawn of the digital age, this has only become more apparent. We are more connected than ever and that means we never truly switch off from our work – our inboxes don’t just close at the end of the working day and any of our colleagues can reach us on our mobiles at any time.

But does all of this extra effort actually make us any better at our jobs? Well – maybe not.

Heading for Burnout

At face value, overworking is looked at as a good thing, a sign of how far you’re willing to go to be the best at your job.

Look at the long term, however, and you’ll see certain cracks start to appear. If you start to get lost in your work, it’s very likely, almost certain, that you’ll start to experience burnout.

Burnout is one of the worst things that can happen to your career. It can drag you down, suck you in, and leave you disillusioned and ground down. This kind of mental crash has symptoms that are normally split into three categories[1]:

  1. Exhaustion – This is the physical side of burnout. Overworking yourself can leave you feeling sluggish and fatigued, unable to concentrate on even the most basic of work tasks – which in turn can see your performance levels in your job drop sharply. It can also cause headaches, migraines, stomach issues, and more unpleasant symptoms.
  2. Cynicism – Looking more on the mental side of things, burnout can cause you to become cynical about your work and your career. You might feel unfulfilled by your work and uninterested in progressing further. You may even experience a more general sense of depression and anxiety that can be hard to break out of.
  3. Professional anxiety ­– On the other side of the coin, if you’re experiencing burnout, you may start to lose confidence in your ability to do your job to the high levels you demand of yourself. Overworking yourself can result in a good performance, yes, but the level of work you put into that performance is not sustainable in the long run.

Those are just some of the problems that working long and hard hours can cause and the message is clear:

Working 24/7 is not the way forward.

Putting things right

The real way to show our commitment to our work is to put in a great performance, and the best way to put in a great performance is to start the working day in the best shape possible – physically and mentally.

To get mentally and physically prepared, a healthy work-life balance is essential and that means setting clear and strict boundaries between where your working life ends and where your personal life begins. It also means taking care of yourself too, keeping yourself sharp and ready to put your best foot in.

To do that, you’ll need to:

  • Switch off after work hours: Your work devices are the lifeline between you and your job, especially if you work from home. While it can be tempting to check your emails or quickly prep a report in your downtime, this can lead you down the road to burnout. For some jobs, it might not be possible, but try to turn off and log off your work laptops and mobiles every now and then, when you aren’t working to get a well-earned break.
  • Take care of yourself physically: Getting in the right mental state of mind is crucial and the fastest way to do that is to take care of yourself in the physical sense. Eat a nutritious diet, take regular breaks both at work and at home, get some exercise every day, and spend some time with your hobbies and family. Last but definitely not least, get your sleeping pattern under control and get at least eight hours a night.
  • Talk to your manager and colleagues: If you find that you regularly have to start early, finish late, and take your work into the weekend, talk to your manager and your colleagues. Your manager may realize that your workload is unfair and push back on your behalf, while your colleagues might offer to help you with your work to ease the burden. Both of these can help you manage your work-life balance that much more.

 

Those are our thoughts on why the 24/7 working lifestyle has to change. For more ideas, insights, guides, and articles about modern working life and how to make it better, keep an eye on our blog

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