by Dr.Pallavi Arvind Joshi, Consultant – Psychiatrist, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield
Knowingly and unknowingly, the pressure at work leads to mental stress. Long work hours, delivery deadlines, competition and politics at work all combine to take a toll on the mental wellbeing of a working individual. It is a serious matter of concern that individuals have become so engrossed in their professional lives that they are neglecting their mental health as a result. Many individuals suffering from mental health issues are not comfortable with being open about it and seeking help. They start staying aloof from colleagues and friends and that’s when one should make an effort to spend time with them and not let oneself feel lonely. In order to ensure that work life doesn’t prove detrimental to one’s mental well-being, it is of utmost importance to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Some of the indications of work life taking a toll on mental health are as follows.
· A feeling of discontent and unhappiness about the time one devotes to work.
· Neglecting or ignoring other aspects and milestones of life by devoting extra focus on work life.
· Spending time thinking and worrying about work even after leaving office, at home or at social gatherings. Meaning, work-life still builds stress in the mind and causes resistance in enjoying one’s social and private life.
· Women are more susceptible to work-life stress as they need to more heavily juggle private responsibilities along with their professional lives.
· Growth in personal life takes a setback – lack of personal development, mental and physical stress, poor home life, inadequate social life, etc.
In order to strike a healthy work-life balance, it is important to follow a few self-employed rules:
· Make it a personal responsibility to not let work life interfere with one’s mental well-being.
· When unrealistic expectations are set in the professional sphere, it is important to speak up and let the employers know that you are being overworked.
· Identifying and communicating to concerned people of the problem areas making it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
· Try to work smart and not long. This involves formulating a priority chart and allotting a fixed time period for a particular task.
· Enhancing focus and spending less time indulging in non-productive activities.
· Taking regular breaks at work in between a couple hours of work.
· Take up relaxing activities like meditation, giving time to one’s hobbies, exercise, etc.
· Formulating and respecting the line between work and leisure.
· If you find yourself spending a lot of time thinking about work even after work hours, a break may be called for so as to avoid major repercussions of the stress being faced at work.
The workplace also plays an important role in facilitating a working atmosphere that is aimed at not festering stress for the employees. Also, for employees who feel bogged down by the work pressure, the workplace can help make them feel at ease. Some of the ways the workplace can be of help in this regard are as below.
· Create awareness about the importance of work-life balance in the workplace
· Formulated rules and policies that aid the employees in striking a healthy balance between professional and personal lives
· Encourage an open culture wherein employees feeling the pressure of work do not hesitate with sharing their concerns
· Provide training to position holders that can enable them to spot and identify individuals that are showing signs of stress or unhealthy mental life
· Ensuring that deliverable and timelines adhere to the designated working hours of employees and do not require extra or long hours of work
· Formulate policies to monitor and evaluate employee work performance against absence, leaves, etc.
· Allow staff to attend counselling and support services during working hours to prevent escalation of stress in identified individuals.
· Provide amenities like counselling, gym, rejuvenation, etc. that provide relaxation and diversion from work at the workplace
In addition to ensuring certain factors at the workplace that will lead to a stress-free professional life, it is also important for an individual to maintain a healthy private and social life so as to divert attention and not be bogged down by thoughts of work all day long. A strong boundary should be created at home as well, beyond which even the slightest work-related stuff shouldn’t be entertained; this can be a physical space or a time limit that you set as per your own comfort and will. Being efficient at work, working smart, minimizing time invested in unproductive activities, ensuring flexibility at work are all effective in ensuring a healthy work-life balance.
With a proper camaraderie between the workplace and oneself in making work more fun and enjoyable rather than a compulsion, it is not difficult to build and maintain a healthy work-life balance.