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Guest Viewpoint: Do you have work separation anxiety?

Don't underestimate it - working too much can kill you

You probably work too much.

The average weekly working hours for full-time workers is around 37.5 hours. But in reality half the workers in the UK work a lot more than that. Some a lot more.cIf you answer emails at home in the evening, check over documents at breakfast and even dream of your tasks tomorrow—you could be suffering workplace separation anxiety.

We live in an interconnected world. Presenteeism doesn’t just mean being physically present in the office – it’s now easier than ever to work evenings and weekends. A lot of people even work during their annual leave. You might be worried about the amount of work you have to do. You might fear losing your job if you’re not seen to be working at all times. You might just be incredibly driven to work as hard as you can.

But work separation anxiety is stressful, and when you cope by working constantly, it leads to burnout . Burnout is serious – the sleeplessness, anxiety, and stress that it causes can literally kill you.

Wanting to work hard, and give 110% is great, but not if it’s at the cost of your physical and mental health. Here, then are some ways to help you switch off from work, manage your anxiety and improve your relationship with your obligations.

  • Learn to say ‘no’: it can be easy to fall into a pattern of agreeing to do all the work for all the people. Being overloaded with tasks and obligations is immensely stressful. If you teach yourself that it’s all right to occasionally refuse to do something – because you already have plenty to do – you’ll be a step further down the road to freeing up time for yourself, and reducing your work anxiety.
  • Prepare: spend an hour a week at work organising, prioritising and preparing the week ahead. You can do this on a Monday morning—giving you a clear plan of what to do and when to do it. Or you can do it on a Friday afternoon – this’ll free up your weekend, and give you a reason to have your calendar clear at the end of the week. Either way, having that preparation will gradually ease you into delineating time at work vs. time for yourself.
  • Transition: build a routine that acts as a barrier between work and home. Maybe subscribe to a podcast that you can listen to on the way to and from work – that’ll gradually become a familiar bookend to the work day.
  • Turn off the tech: if your phone or laptop are bombarding you with notifications, switch those off. Make it clear to people that you’re not available out of office hours. Set up a polite autoreply saying you’ll catch up with requests when you’re back. People will request your attention less and less out of office hours if they learn that you’re not available.
  • Be mindful: spend a little time after work every day just doing nothing. Practice mindfulness, meditate, breathe and relax. Take a few minutes to decompress, and firmly tell your brain that this is me time, and work doesn’t matter right now.

Remember, even the hardest worker deserves to feel good about themselves. Taking the time to remind yourself that you deserve a stress-free life will go toward achieving that.

David Price is a wellbeing expert and CEO of Health Assured.