The way we work has evolved drastically. Today, professionals face massive pressure to stay engaged and available around the clock. Five minutes of email here, a quick text there – it’s deviously easy to let work thoughts and conversations invade our off-hours. And it’s a habit that has real, negative impacts on our health, morale, and ability to work effectively.
Just recently, I was re-watching the show Mad Men and had an epiphany about their outlook on work. Behind the antics of drinking on the job and scheming – there is a fundamentally different relationship to work. In the world of Mad Men, work happens at work. If you want Don Draper on the clock after hours, you’ve got to call him at home and make a very good case for why he needs to come into the office.
And that is as much a relic of the time as any of the other elements of the show.
Although staying connected is a fact of modern work life, I believe executives and leaders have a responsibility to help employees manage their relationship to work. And as Co-CEO of a company dedicated to business insights and research, I am in a unique position to understand and address modern work stress.
So, our team at Critical Mix surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults using our kNOW Instant Insights tool to better understand the relationship between productivity, stress, sleep, and work.
What we found
Work stresses us out. Not a big surprise, but it’s important to have the data to back up a hunch. Specifically, the top reported work stressors are a heavy workload and long hours.
We are every bit as bad at disconnecting from work as you’d think. Many adults can’t go more than an hour after waking up without checking on work-related emails. And at the end of the day, 58 percent of U.S. adults disconnect from technology within only 30 minutes of falling asleep.
Unwinding takes work. Respondent’s reported their favorite methods for de-stressing from the work day are exercise, spending time in nature, and puzzles or brain teasers.
Employers can do more to help their team destress. In fact, 44 percent of respondents reported that their employer doesn’t offer any resources at all for stress-relief. And the most commonly reported opportunities aren’t exactly inspired: flexible vacation time and gym membership opportunities.
We need to do more
Frankly, we owe employees more than vacation time and gym memberships. In an increasingly stressful working world, it’s up to business leaders to think more creatively about the tools and coaching our employees need to avoid burnout.
That means the benefits and opportunities we offer should be as varied as the people who work for us. A blanket ban on after-hours email could easily backfire for parents who value the ability to catch up on work at night after they’ve had a chance to focus on school pickup, dinner time, and putting the kids to bed.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but at Critical Mix we are on a mission to build an arsenal of easy ways for our team to destress and disconnect, including onsite yoga classes, team volunteering events, sponsored 5ks and running teams, office sports teams for local volleyball and softball leagues and even office bikes (lovingly known as the Critical Cruisers).
A little bit of digging on the topic reveals all kinds of innovative approaches to helping employees disconnect. To help employees unlearn the habit of overworking, some companies like Evernote have even gone as far as to offer cash bonuses to employees who take at least a full week off work.
Beyond policy, business leaders and executives need to set the tone for what healthy work boundaries look like. When we aren’t working, we should make it clear to staff that we aren’t available by email. We should celebrate disconnecting during non-work hours and praise our teams for demonstrating off-hours restraint over off-hours availability.
Regulating our relationships with work feels counterintuitive to the grit and hustle that has helped us achieve amazing things at work. But, the truth is great businesses aren’t built on the backs of work martyrs sending 1 a.m. emails. Great businesses are built on the focus and creativity that comes from arriving at work rested, centered and ready.