Today I returned to work after a week away with my young family. This is the first full week I have taken off since Christmas (7 months ago) and I have returned to work feeling relaxed, refreshed and ready to go again. I made a point of leaving my Corporate Laptop and Phone behind, as I am one of those that find it hard to ‘switch off’.
With or without my Corporate Phone, I am aware that I can struggle to stop my mind whirring with thoughts about work. I was promoted about 18 months ago and was naturally keen to make a good impression. Since then I have continued to work hard to drive myself, my team and my department forward. I often spend my spare time reading up on work related topics on my smart phone or reflecting on what went well or badly and my early mornings, evening’s and train journeys are spent sending work emails or instant messages. I know this can be seen as obsessive and I had a bit of an awakening recently, when one of my team got very excited at the thought that I might have a social life when one day I left the office at 4.30pm!
The irony here is that the very technology that has made me personally so ‘productive’, is now also the biggest threat to my mental wellbeing and long term health. I know that I am not alone in this – research commissioned by the Myers-Briggs Company found that 28% of workers said they find it difficult to mentally switch off from their jobs because of access to work emails and smartphones, while 26% said the expectation to be always on interferes with their personal life. A further 20% of people said being constantly connected to work made them feel mentally exhausted. Those who are “always on” were found to be more engaged at work, but more likely to experience stress or mental exhaustion.
I am aware that even on my personal phone I am now spending increasing amounts of time on LinkedIn and other business related channels. Like Facebook, LinkedIn is filled with good news stories – big money promotions, incredible boardroom performances or ground-breaking discoveries. And like Facebook, I am finding that LinkedIn is impacting upon my mood and increasing anxiety when my own career doesn’t seem to be so dazzling by comparison.
As with anything, the first step is admitting that you have a problem, so having returned to work today, I have made myself some personal mantras;
1. No matter who you are or what role you do, your team will manage just fine without you for a few days – the emails can wait;
2. You will not perform to your best if you don’t take the time for you (and your mobile phone) to properly recharge;
3. Your wife and children will always appreciate your physical presence, more than your work colleagues will appreciate your virtual presence.