Two simple ways to be happy at work

By Brooke Lumsden

Researchers from the University of Florida found that employees who work through their lunch break are suffering from burnout. Photo / Getty
Researchers from the University of Florida found that employees who work through their lunch break are suffering from burnout. Photo / Getty

If you're under the pump at work and having to keep on top of things by giving up your "me" time, it's time to tell your boss you're reclaiming your life, and you've got the science to back you up.

Studies released last week have shown that not being able to switch off from work is a major cause of emotional exhaustion.

Researchers from the University of Florida found that employees who work through their lunch break are suffering from burnout and that simply taking 30 minutes to yourself, particularly if you get out and do something active, can boost your energy and help you be more productive on the job.

Lehigh University researchers also found that being expected to check work emails after hours has significant negative effects, such as diminished work-family balance, suggesting it may be a good idea for other countries to follow France's recent labour reform law banning the checking of work emails on weekends.

Ange Connor, Director of InspireHQ who specialise in employee health and wellbeing, explains that being able to switch off from work is crucial for good mental health and reducing issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as the health of the business.

"Employers need to be fostering a culture that allows for their employees to have mental time out from work and not feel guilty for doing so," she says.

"Mental time out has been proven to improve the productivity, concentration and alertness of employees."

However, there are many other burnout contributors Ange refers to that many of us deal with regularly. Not having clear job expectations and a defined role in your team can lead to excessive worry about performance and meeting expectations.

Our access to technology thanks to always having our devices on hand means that we trick ourselves into thinking we're getting a headstart on work, but we end up falling into the trap of making our work days longer and longer.

This technology has also led to the expectations of everything being done yesterday, meaning a dramatic increase in the pace at which we do business, as well as the demise of the nine to five workday, which can lead others expect you to be available at all hours just because they're working back late or over the weekend.

A lack of control over job factors such as your workload, schedule or deadlines, also leads to stress and pressure, causing us to think about it and worry more. Sure, this is just part of working life and being a grown up, but Ange says it's when this environment becomes the norm rather than the exception, that the risk of burnout is increased.

"Working constantly in this environment leaves the employee worrying about their workload, they may start working longer hours and even when they are at home or when it's out of work hours they will still often be thinking about the problem and not be able to switch off," Ange says.

"This flows on and impacts sleep, diet, our moods, our emotional state and you can start to see how very quickly lack of control over workload and schedules can escalate to burnout and impact our mental health wellness."

Ange's suggestions for minimising burnout

• Have a hobby or multiple hobbies to give you an outlet. Try different things until you find something that really works for you and allows you genuine mental down time.

• Exercise - we all know the stats and pros for exercising but again it's important to find your thing. From my personal experience and from clients I have worked with for exercising to really work you need to like it and enjoy it.

• Take a lunch break ... away from your desk.

• If you don't work a Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm job and do need to do overtime - set some boundaries so that you don't slip in to continuously working 15-hour days.


• Lead by example. Don't promote work life balance as something that is really important to the business then model the opposite behaviours.

• Create a culture whereby employees don't feel for guilty for having mental time out from work.

• Foster an environment that encourages open communication whereby employees feel comfortable raising concerns about their workload, pressures they are feeling and asking for clarification of expectations if required.

• Invest the time getting to know your employees so you can recognise the signs of burnout.


Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 28 Feb 2017 18:48:55 Processing Time: 644ms