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5 Ways Not to Take Work Stress Home with You

5 Ways Not to Take Work Stress Home with You

In my work as an Executive Mentor I have helped a number of senior clients over the years who confront this ‘pain point’ in their Life/Work Effectiveness – they would continue working when they got home, abuse ‘smart’ devices, work mentally over the evenings and weekends and check emails constantly, keeping them in a state of stress. Habits

This is not just poor ‘Attention Management’, but can also result from not really being on top of their job competence. I freely admit I was part of this group many, many years ago when I thought I found my passion – albeit at a heavy cost in the mid-eighties. So, this month I hope this Newsletter assists the challenge you may be confronting, one that I was confronted with all those years back, as we lead up to the Festive Holiday Season.

After a long day at the office, many of us find ourselves taking out our stress on friends, children or significant others. And if we’re not careful, we allow our work stress to become home stress, often at the expense of our families and relationships or our health.

My own experience years ago – as well as the experiences of a number of clients I shared with – was that the two most common stressors were work and money – and the incidence of stress often results in irritability, anger, nervousness and anxiousness — all behaviours that can cause tension when brought home after work.

I’ve previously written about how couples can help each other cope with professional stress. But even couples who cope well together can become overwhelmed if work stress becomes too prominent an element of their relationship.

Personally, I was shattered back in the mid 80’s when my wife left me with our two little girls without a word of explanation. It took a neighbour to inform me that “when I was home, I wasn’t!”. All this was not helped by my constant business travel.

And here I was thinking all was right with the world. What I came to realise though with 100% self honesty, was that in my frenetic senior executive role at a very tender age, I was not at all well equipped to handle all the pressures of the role which I constantly had buzzing through my head, even at home – hence stress big time.

I resigned from the company and took 6 months time-out to get my emotions back together. Yes – I was a mess. But slowly but steadily, I got my act together again. I guess it is fair to say, I came out the other side, all the better for it. Certainly, more self-aware and honest to myself. Pity though my former wife and adult children, to this day, do not wish to engage with me.

The moral to this story for me personally – even though my partner apologised to me for her actions and lack of communication a couple of years after her leaving – is that it was yesterday – the past – and there is always tomorrow to get on with my newly found life.

I’ve subsequently learnt human relationships are inherently messy because they are driven more by emotional than rational factors – and thank goodness for that ……… because relationships are unpredictable and ultimately impossible to control, so are families, communities and organisations…………

We need to shift our focus from control to participation and engagement: from resistance to adaptation; from an unhealthy utopianism to a more realistic acceptance of life’s disorderliness, its irrationalities, its unpredictability, its disenchantments, as well as its joys, its gratifications and even its occasional small triumphs.

So how can you minimize the impact that work stress has on your relationship with your significant other, family and friends?

Below are five tips for keeping work stress from becoming home stress.

  1. Confine your work to particular times and locations. People bring their work home – and that incidence of work-life interference is higher among those who hold professional jobs with more authority, decision-making latitude, pressure and longer hours.

    In today’s ever-connected world, many of us are expected to be on 24/7 and work full-time or part-time from home. When one client was a counsellor, she often was called to meet clients in moments of crisis at all hours of the day. When another was a management consultant, he often was on his laptop working late into the evenings. But if work is constantly seeping into your home life, the stresses of work will too.

    So leave your work at the office. Make a rule to work from home only in exceptional circumstances, and keep work folders, computers and notebooks at your desk. If that’s not feasible for your position, designate a few hours each day for home life only — an hour during dinner or bedtime with the kids — when you can eliminate distractions and focus on family. If you work at home, don’t bring your laptop to bed or use it on your couch. Work in an office or a specified workspace. Doing this will mentally help you shut off work when you leave the room, giving you an incentive to work as efficiently as possible rather than lingering over tasks.

  1. Develop good mobile device habits. Perhaps the most common way in which work distraction seeps into a person’s relationships today is through smartphones. Have you ever finally decompressed in an evening only to look at your email, see something alarming, and become stressed? The average person now checks their phone 46 times per day, spending nearly five hours per day on mobile devices, leading 30% of users to consider their smartphones a “leash.”

    Develop good habits and rules that keep your tablets and phones from tethering you to work. Keep two separate mobile phones — one for work and one for personal use — and leave the work phone in an out-of-the-way place (or turned off) on nights and weekends. And never check your work email in the hour or two prior to bed. Multiple studies have found that staring at a phone before bed can negatively impact your brain’s ability to prepare for sleep, and sleep deprivation is linked closely to stress. When on vacation, lock work-related mobile devices in the hotel safe and check them only at predetermined times.

  1. Establish a good support network. Significant others can be amazing partners in dealing with stress. But to place all your work stress on a spouse or partner is unfair to them and dangerous to your relationship. Develop a support network of friends and mentors who can help you manage your professional stress so that it isn’t the burden solely of your significant other. Lower stress levels become apparent in people with a strong social support network. Having people to lean on in times of stress can increase your ability to cope with problems independent of your network, as being supported increases autonomy and self-esteem.
  1. Have an end-of-work habit. Sometimes your brain needs a signal to prepare you for time at home. It’s even better if this signal can help you decompress. For example, my management consultant client uses his afternoon commute to unwind — taking a more scenic route home, listening to music or the news and giving himself time to switch gears for family life. Others I’ve spoken to have mentioned hitting the gym, running, meditating and other rituals. Think about what helps you unwind, and find space in your schedule for this habit — particularly at the end of a long day at work — so that when you return home you’re free of the baggage that’s built up throughout the day.
  1. Create a third space. When professionals have families, their entire lives can revolve around their responsibilities at work and at home. Busy executives run home to help with kids — changing diapers or shuttling preteens to soccer games — or to do the little things that keep a home humming, like laundry, yard work or cooking. But having a third space outside of work and home can help enormously with stress management.

Each partner in a relationship should maintain habits and times that allow them to explore their interests, relax and seek fulfillment, and find space outside of home and work. These spaces are different for everyone — quiet cafes, book clubs, fishing, karate classes, poker nights — but they are important for maintaining our identities and our sense of peace. Make the sacrifice of offering your partner a third space to find themselves, maintain their friendships, and explore their interests, and ask that they do the same for you. Third spaces mean no person runs from responsibility to responsibility without having time to breathe.

Work stress can be a challenge for home life. Learning to manage stress — by working with your partner to cope and by keeping some of your professional stress outside the house — can contribute to better relationships and better physical and mental health.

The Leader’s Work-Life Balance Matters as Much as Your Own

The Leader’s Work-Life Balance Matters as Much as Your Own

What leaders say is far less important than what they do. That’s one of the clearest conclusions I drew from a recent study focused on how they experience their lives at work in a global, Australian-based IT firm.

Companies seeking more sustainable high performance from their employees need to meet four of their core needs: renewal (physical); value (emotional), focus (mental) and meaning and purpose (spiritual). Continue reading

Could excessive Social Media Use lead to Low Self Esteem and detachment from Reality?

Could excessive Social Media Use lead to Low Self Esteem and detachment from Reality?

The average Facebook user spends almost an hour on the site every day, according to data provided by one company last year. A Deloitte survey found that for many smartphone users, checking social media apps are the first thing they do in the morning – often before even getting out of bed. Of course, social interaction is a healthy and necessary part of human existence. Thousands of studies have concluded that most human beings thrive when they have strong, positive relationships with other human beings. Continue reading

These 5 Tips will keep you Focused and help you Achieve Life/Work Effectiveness!

These 5 Tips will keep you Focused and help you Achieve Life/Work Effectiveness!

I have an Executive client who used to wake up, stumble over to the phone, and immediately get lost in a stream of pointless notifications. This digital haze continued throughout the day, keeping him from accomplishing important tasks. He was distracted, anxious and ineffective as a leader. He knew he had to change but could not seem to break free from the behaviours that kept him locked into the same cycle. Continue reading

Are You Sleeping with Your Smartphone?

Are You Sleeping with Your Smartphone?

Do you check your wireless device when you’re not working? What causes you to do so? Does the job require it? Do you like feeling needed? Not sleeping enough?

Yes, the client or customer might call. Yes, there are stresses from managing across time zones. Yes, there are real external and legitimate factors that affect how much we work. But, none of this adequately accounts for how much we are actually connected. Continue reading

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently

Why have you been so successful in reaching some of your goals, but not others? If you aren’t sure, you are far from alone in your confusion. It turns out that even brilliant, highly accomplished people are pretty lousy when it comes to understanding why they succeed or fail. The intuitive answer — that you are born predisposed to certain talents and lacking in others — is really just one small piece of the puzzle. In fact, decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do. Continue reading

The Need for Goal Setting for the Senior Executive/Manager

The Need for Goal Setting for the Senior Executive/Manager

Over the last few days in late August, I had 2 very energetic and relevant discussions with two senior Managers from – oddly – the same Institution. One is a client of my firm, whilst the other a potential client.

They share one thing in common – where they want to be in 3-5 years’ time, and not knowing how to even get somewhere, whilst maintaining what they call ‘work/life balance’. Let me say right now on this point – and please excuse the French – this is a crappy term. It suggests our lives are in two distinct and separate parts. Not true! Continue reading

7 Things Leaders Do to Help People Change

7 Things Leaders Do to Help People Change

Ever tried to change anyone’s behaviour at work? It can be extremely frustrating. So often the effort produces an opposite result: rupturing the relationship, diminishing job performance or causing the person to dig in their heels. Still, some approaches clearly work better than others. Continue reading

7 Ways to Improve Talent Management and Retention Programs

7 Ways to Improve Talent Management and Retention Programs

Making the right investments in learning and development programs have never been more important – or more of a challenge – for business leaders.

Unfortunately, despite spending billions of dollars globally on learning and development programs, many executives still grapple with how to improve and enhance their effectiveness. As research shows, the need to revamp and improve learning programs is an important concern among HR executives – but it should be a very real concern for C-Suite even more so!! Continue reading

Why are Australian Companies not investing in their People?

Why are Australian Companies not investing in their People?

One of the most compelling experiences we are confronted with as members of an Executive and Business Mentoring firm is that companies, generally speaking do not see the need to invest in the leadership and professional development of their people. Why you may ask? Continue reading

Are You Controlled by Smartphones?

Are You Controlled by Smartphones?

Why can’t some people remember when we last spoke to a client? Why, over the course of 30 minutes, does a senior executive trade 22 emails to organize a simple lunch meeting, only to be cancelled on last-minute? Why does a banker waste the entire day on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Continue reading

Four Tips for Building Accountability

Four Tips for Building Accountability

“Accountability” is a favourite word to invoke when the lack of it has become so apparent — such as with the global financial crisis early this century. It is also a loaded word and political football in major sectors crying out for reform, such as health care and public education. Continue reading

4 Things You - The Client - Should expect from Your Mentor

4 Things You – The Client – Should expect from Your Mentor

If you’re about to engage a new mentor and want to be sure it will pay dividends before you invest time and money in the relationship, there is a simple way to gauge how effective they will be.

Over the past years, as an Executive and Business Mentor, I’ve noticed four things that separate the best mentors from the mediocre pack. Continue reading

3 Popular Goal-Setting Techniques to be Avoided

3 Popular Goal-Setting Techniques to be Avoided

Setting goals that can’t be properly achieved in your organization is really setting your team up for failure. It has a terrible effect on morale, which flows on to employee engagement and productivity. To begin setting achievable goals, you might want to consider throwing away three popular goal-setting techniques. Continue reading

What can mature managers do when they’re sidelined in the workplace?

What can Mature Age Managers do when they’re Sidelined in the Workplace?

Things are getting tougher for mature age employees, even those in management roles. Many of us enjoy our work and don’t want to retire, or we simply don’t want to survive on the lifestyle our meagre pensions and super payouts will give us. Continue reading

Email management

4 Tips to Ensure Your Emails Give the Right Impression

President Lincoln often wrote scathing letters to his generals, frustrated by their inability to bring the war to a close. Angry they had missed golden opportunities such as finishing off the retreating confederate army, who were trapped by rising waters at the Potomac river after the battle of Gettysburg. Continue reading

Why ‘Time Management’ is Just a Myth!

Why ‘Time Management’ is Just a Myth!

David is as hard a worker as anyone I know as a client. He’s not just busy; he’s keenly focused on getting the right things done. And it pays off — he is the largest single revenue generator at his well-known professional services firm. Continue reading

Effective Career Planning

8 Ways to Focus on Career Planning that Works in an Unpredictable World

I stated in a recent presentation ‘Career – Stuck in a Rut?’, that in an unpredictable world, traditional career planning is a waste of time. It’s close to impossible to pinpoint exactly where you’ll be in five years and work backwards. Continue reading

Your boss tells you to get a Coach or Mentor – What do you do?

Your boss tells you to get a Coach or Mentor – What do you do?

How does it feel when you’re told that you need a mentor, whether it’s your boss or someone else? For many managers it feels like a kick in the gut, a clear sign that you’re doing something wrong and your job might be in trouble. For others, who might be resistant to mentoring in general, it raises questions about whether you really need the extra help. Continue reading

Five Steps to Better Family Negotiations

Five Steps to Better Family Negotiations

Discussions and negotiations between family members who own a business are different – different from negotiations between non-family members and also different from negotiations between family members who don’t have equity. This is because family relationships are distinctive kinds of relationships, and having a family business raises the stakes of – and often complicates – a frank family discussion.

Continue reading