Why employees find it difficult to dissociate from work

Being unable to disconnect from work even when one is at home with family has almost become a disease

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It is natural to feel stressed at office if there is major workload and limited time in which to finish the same.

But what if people fail to experience the sense of relief that accompanies the completion of the assigned work at their office? What if the stress simply follows them home?

These days, people are finding it increasingly difficult to disconnect from their office work even when they’re at home, surrounded by their family. There is a lingering feeling at the back of their minds that they still have a lot of work to do. If their employer calls, their sense of duty and accountability forces them to answer. As a result, people are tired and restless even beyond work, finding it difficult to engage in any activity and give it their full attention.

“Leadership is required to ensure that official work stays in the office itself”

Alex Augustine, chief people officer, Waycool

Clearly, people face a lot of pressure at work, but is it the result of the work culture, technology, or people’s mindsets?

Work culture:Maneesha Jha Thakur, Business Strategy Consultant/Executive Coach/Independent director at Growth Assurance, states that “the work culture at companies is responsible for the employee’s inability to disconnect even after work hours.”

Irregular work hours: Thakur also points out that irregular working hours contribute to stress too. “The culture of many companies values and rewards long working hours. Employees imbibe the same and set their regular office leaving time 1-3 hours after official closing hours. This is not always related to volume or urgency of work. Leaving on time becomes stigmatized to clerical behavior and is greeted with gentle satire like “half day today?”

Heavy quantum of work, lack of uniform distribution of work, disorganized planning and lack of empowerment also contributes to crisis situations which demands long hours at work and taking work home. In these areas organisations can do a lot to reduce working hours and increase productivity.

“The work at companies is responsible for the employee’s inability to disconnect even after work.”

Maneesha Jha Thakur, business strategy consultant, executive coach, independent director, Growth Assurance

Compartmentalisation: On the other hand, Pia Shome, chief people officer, U GRO Capital, thinks, “the issue has been blown out of proportion, because of the new interest in mental health in the corporate world. The media is complicit in sensationalizing the issue.”

It is important for people to compartmentalize their office and home lives, feels Shome. Stress only arises when they fail to do so. The chances of this may be reduced if people perform their assigned jobs on time, without any delay. If they keep putting off work, it will naturally grow and lead to an uncontrollable mess.

Coordination: Technology has narrowed the distance between work and home. Shome points out that it is easier to reach people now, and talk to them whenever there is an emergency. People can coordinate their work better if they are connected with each other. Also, there is less chance of blunders if one can actively seek out help from the other end.

Respect for private space: Alex Augustine, chief people officer, Waycool, is of the opinion that “the culture at work and the leadership values affect employees’ behaviour.”

At work, there is very little respect for a person’s private life. Employees are always being burdened with more assignments, which the company expects them to complete without any interference from their personal life.

“Technology has narrowed the distance between work and home”

Pia Shome, chief people officer, U GRO Capital

Leadership: Augustine believes that good leadership is required to ensure that official work stays in the office itself. Any osmosis of work into the home environment should be avoided. This can happen through a positive change in the work culture in their offices. This can be ensured by moderating the number of hours employees spend in the office, and by allowing them to leave at the allocated hour, without burdening them with extra work later.

Strong steps need to be taken to curb accumulated stress. Earlier this year, Portugal’s ruling Socialist Party decreed that employers will be fined if they contact their employees for work purposes, after office hours. They will also be liable to pay for the expenses incurred in working at home. It is important that people be allowed to enjoy their freedom at home, and spend quality time away from the hassle of work. Definitive actions such as these are a step in the right direction.

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