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How separating work and play can help prevent burnout

Hawk Wind

Burnout is all too common for those in the work force. From emails to text messages, the line between work and home has blurred to the point where there almost isn’t one.

This week on “Take Care,” Dr. Ron Friedman addresses the topic of workplace burnout and how to counter the effects with ways to stay satisfied and engaged during the work week and bring the separation between work and home back.

Friedman is a social psychologist and author of the book, "The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace." He is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, CNN, Forbes, Fast Company and Psychology Today.

Most people work in an environment where they are expected to communicate at all hours of the day, while trying to get as much done as possible during the actual work day.

“Constant communication does come with a cost,” Friedman says. “When we can’t fully log off, we can’t fully recover.”

The ability to disconnect and reenergize when not at work is an important part of performing at a high level.

“We have limited cognitive bandwidth. Unless we are giving ourselves the opportunity to recharge we are just not able to focus when it comes to working on a day-to-day basis,” Freidman says.

However, it is on the companies as much as the employers, Friedman says, to make sure people are reenergizing and performing at a high level.

“More and more managers are starting to realize that when you look at the data on engagement, that model of having people work all the time is just not a good way of going about things,” Friedman says.

Companies around the world have noticed and are already starting to take action to help their employees disconnect when not in the workplace.

“In Europe, Volkswagen has started an email blackout where they shut their servers off each night so employees can’t check them,” Friedman says.

The Boston Consulting Group monitors paid time off in order to make sure their employees are taking their allotted vacation time. Elsewhere, Full Contact, out of Denver, Colorado, is paying their employees an extra $7,500 if they can take a vacation for one week without checking their emails.

“We associate time in front of our computers with productivity and that’s just not the case,” Friedman says.

Working nonstop has an allusion of productivity but as Friedman says, “its only productive short term,” with research showing that those unable to disconnect are the least engaged in work activities a year later.

Credit Richardo Motti / Flickr

Friedman lists several ways people can change their work days up and take control of their workspace all while staying productive.

First, Friedman suggests placing intermissions on your calendar. Placing a block of at least 15 minutes to do something active away from your desk is not only beneficial for your mental energy but it separates employees from their work environment.

“The longer you spend looking at a particular set of facts or projects the more narrow your attention gets,” Friedman says.

Friedman also encourages employees to bring exercise into their work environment.

“Don’t just look at exercise as something you do to look good or feel healthy,” Friedman says.  “Some of the most beneficial aspects of exercise is the impact it has on our thinking.”

Our thinking is related to our energy level so bringing in exercise, like walking meetings, can help to focus our minds and create ideas.

With constant communication and technology enhancing our way of getting work done, disconnect can be hard but it remains a must, says Friedman.

Leaving work at work and having time to relax, unwind and disconnect can make all the difference in the long run.