Work-Life Balance Cuts Unhealthy Job Stress

Monday, 11 Feb 2013 11:25 AM

By Nick Tate

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It’s no secret: More Americans are staying connected to the job long after quitting time has officially begun — through e-mails, smartphones, PCs, and tablets. But while it may enhance your career, being connected to your job 24-7 can cause spikes in stress that compromise your health.
 
That’s the primary conclusion of a new Kansas State University study of stress and health that suggests detaching from work — mentally, physically, and electronically — is the key to recovery from job stress that can pay big dividends in terms of your physical and mental health.

YoungAh Park, an assistant professor of psychology and former businesswoman in the competitive South Korean workforce, noted staying connected to work after hours has become the norm, but doesn’t allow for a break from work-related stress.

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"Competition in the workplace is getting fierce," Park said. "People may worry about job security, want to increase their salary or advance in their career, so they feel they have to be more dedicated to their work … [but] if there are any unpleasant text messages or emails from work-related people — such as a boss, co-worker, clients, customers, or contractors — you may be more likely to ruminate about work-related issues or worries.”

That in turn may drain “psychological and physical resources,” she added. In addition, workers who are unable to unplug from the job experience greater levels of fatigue, burnout, and dissatisfaction overall, Park said.

Her advice?

Park recommended setting self-regulated rules for use of communication and information technologies for work during non-work time. It’s also important for employees to communicate with co-workers and supervisors about work-home boundaries and work-related communications outside of business hours.

"Let your co-workers, supervisor or any work-related people know this is how you communicate outside work," Park said. "There may be times when employees have to be involved in work during non-work hours for urgent projects or work tasks, but it's still important that managers make sure employees have time to recover from stress after the work is done.

"If you have a strong technological boundary and self-restricted rules for using e-mail, laptops, or cellphones for work during off-work times, then you are more likely to experience psychological detachment from work."

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