Are you a work martyr? You might feel like you’re a model employee, staying late at the office and then logging on from home long after work should have wrapped up for the day. But the fact is that working all the time makes you less productive, not more. Beyond that, if you’re working 24/7, when do you have time to really live your life?
The problem is, it’s so easy to work from anywhere, that many of us opt to do so. “Working from home” turns into checking your emails with one hand while you twirl pasta in the other. “Working on the road” turns into working in mid-air, laptop balanced precariously on your tray table. “Working later” turns into every waking hour of every day, even during vacation.
To be better employees, we need work-life balance. That means disconnecting and chilling out in order to come back to work with the spirit of a champion.
You might feel like working all the time makes you a model employee, but it kills productivity.
Look for Corporate Culture Clues
Check your surroundings: is everyone working at their desks through lunch, scheduling loads of meetings that eat up productive hours, and taking work home with them to email you about at midnight? Warning! Warning!
If your work doesn’t respect the overtime you’re putting in, that’s a red flag. If your gig expects you to be “online” during vacation and while traveling, then when are you actually going to stop and smell the roses? I once had a job that the common “going home” phrase wasn’t “See you tomorrow!,” but rather “I’ll be online later!”
I soon realized why we were all working on laptops … they went home with us for more work time off the clock. Not cool!
If you’re interviewing for a new job, ask if HR has any written policies about client contacts after “closing” hours (i.e., is it the norm to have immediate responses to late-night client emails, or nah?). Be alert for other signs that the corporate culture is a bad fit for you.
If you’re already working for a company that prizes availability over actual productivity, you may be able to be the change you want to see. Have a good relationship with your boss? Talk to them about whether encouraging people to log off and stay off would benefit productivity. Work at a place that doesn’t mandate after-hours check-ins, but doesn’t set ground rules either? Consider whether you have the pull to set an example by gently redirecting communication to work hours.
Engage, Then Disengage
When we’re more productive at work, we feel better, right? So maybe instead of stretching that task from 30 minutes to three hours, you buckle down and get ‘er done then peace out at the end of the day. Yes, productivity falls on your shoulders, and that’s a drag, but that’s the rotten part of adulting. If you need to find better ways to be productive, try some of these tricks.
But honestly, once you’re done, be done. Celebrate how done you are by going home and enjoying a nice meal, sans phone-holding, with your loved ones and dogs. It’s great!
Take a Step Back
When you can’t see the forest for the stressy trees, that’s a problem. Maybe you’re heading toward burnout and you don’t know why. Find ways throughout your day/month/year to take a step back and take stock of what’s working and what’s stressing you out beyond belief. Maybe the stress was short-lived, but you certainly don’t want to be on that roller coaster for the rest of your life.
Make some notes on what you think could be dealt with better, and talk about it to your coworkers or boss. Everybody loves efficiency, and it’s a lot less expensive to let people go home once in a while than it is to repair an office wall after someone’s crashed through it, Kool-Aid Man style.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you figured out better work-life balance? We want to know! Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.