For many people, work stress extends well beyond the confines of the office or the job site. In Australia, employees are clocking up an average of “312 hours – or eight weeks – of unpaid work each year”.
This is an alarming statistic but not necessarily a surprising one. With remote working commonplace in many businesses, it can be harder for employees to disconnect, even in their own homes.
This detracts from the amount of leisure or ‘downtime’ that employees get, with professional pressures more likely to infiltrate their personal lives.
Work stress can be detrimental in various ways. It can put a strain on relationships and lead to habits that impact negatively on health, such as cutting out exercise, eating poorly and insufficient sleep.
A recent article by productivity and stress management expert Joe Robinson details the importance of work recovery. He describes it as “a process of detaching from work thoughts and engaging in experiences that help restore the body to pre-stressor levels”. In layman’s terms, it’s a reset button that allows employees to leave concerns about work, at work.
Joe Robinson’s four keys to work recovery
- psychological detachment – put simply, stop thinking about work issues
- relaxation – spend at least 30 minutes after work doing whatever calms you down, whether it’s running, meditating or listening to music
- mastery – take on something new outside of work (join a book club, take a cooking class or try Pilates) to promote personal growth
- Control – schedule time for leisure activities and treat this time just as seriously as you would a meeting or an appointment at work.
Work recovery won’t be the same for everyone. Some people might use exercise to decompress from work, whether it’s going to the gym, yoga or playing a team sport
. Others might opt for music, meditation or a different hobby.
In a nutshell, it’s channelling energy into an activity that removes attention from work and lowers stress levels.
This is an area where leaders can have a positive impact on their employees. Research has found that workers who are encouraged by managers to unwind after work are more likely to do so, which translates to happier, healthier staff.
Kate Page is an Honorary Fellow at Deakin University’s School of Psychology and the National Wellbeing and Inclusion Leader at Tennis Australia. She recommends developing a psychological barrier between the workplace and home
This could mean visiting the gym after work or even simply using public transport to avoid the stress of traffic. If this isn’t possible, there are other options.
“If you do drive, try listening to a podcast that engages you mentally. When we do this, we prepare ourselves to be both mentally and emotionally present in our home life,” Page says.
“As life and work become more flexible, we … need to become much more structured and disciplined in the way we approach work,” she says.
Benefits of work recovery
How encouraging employees to take their annual leave can benefit your workplace
Taking care of yourself and staying well at work
- Reduces fatigue
- Increases work engagement
- Improves health and wellbeing