Yes, You Can Recover From Taking Work home Daily
Have you ever felt at the end of a workday that you accomplished very little?
Do you hit a wall by 3:00pm? If so, it is time to re-examine your professional working habits — both on and off the clock.
On the job productivity is the key to success, accomplishment, and even a sense of well-being. But amidst workplace stressors, distractions, and demands, how can we maximize productivity? One way, is by taking steps to ensure that the work we took home last night is not interfering with the work we are able to do today.
Working On and Off the Clock: The Pluses and Minuses
In an age of demanding work schedules, many companies issue their employees smart phones. This is not a job perk; the purpose is so that employees can continue working after hours, and be accessible whenever management needs them. Many employees balk at the notion of having work related phone calls interfere with their family life, or down time. But not everyone.
Some employees consider the ability to work at night on a company issued phone as a great way to stay ahead of the curve and ease the burden of the following day. You don´t need to be a workaholic to appreciate the value of being accessible outside of normal business hours.
Particularly in some professions, workers relish the opportunity to conduct business at night or on weekends, outside of the demands of a weekday schedule, where time constraints might interfere with productive work-related conversations and negotiations.
But there are downsides. Time spent working at night obviously interferes with family responsibilities and relationships. But research indicates it can also interfere with cognitive functioning the following day.
Avoiding Workaholic Hangovers
Lilian Gombert et al. (from 2018) in "Protect Your Sleep When Work is Calling," studied the potential impact of work-related smartphone use as well as quality of sleep on next-day self-control processes at work. This correlation is important because the ability to function well at work facilitates a productive work day.
The authors defined self-control as "the ability to regulate one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in order to align them with goals, rules, or other standards." They recognize that self-control is a regulatory resource that gets depleted — termed ego depletion, which can hinder-control and create feelings of cognitive exhaustion and decreased willpower.
They explain that when self-control is depleted, recovery time is necessary. And that if an employee has no opportunity to recover, he or she may suffer negative long-term psychological consequences.
Gombert et al. also note that self-control demands are a source of workplace stress. They cite occupational health research that has demonstrated how self-control demands are linked with short-term effects, such as ego depletion, as well as long-term consequences such as depression, burnout, and missed work—all of which can involve compromised well-being.
So how does smart phone use off the clock interfere with effectiveness on the clock? Gombert et al. note, "work-related smartphone use during non-work time requires executive self-control processes, and in that way depletes limited regulatory resources."
In other words, working on your phone off the clock requires more mental effort than you think—which might be taking more of a toll than you appreciate.
Thankfully, there may be a way to potentially minimize this effect—quality of sleep.
Sleeping it Off
Many people appreciate the value of a good night´s sleep. Rest is particularly important for employees inclined to take work home. Unfortunately, many employees burn the candle at both ends, believing the additional hours with which to tackle work-related phone calls and other tasks will boost productivity. Actually, research seems to indicate the opposite is true—that investing in quality sleep will allow the employee to save time the next day by restoring cognitive depletion and restoring self control.
Gombert et al. found support for the fact that following evenings where employees engaged in a high level of work-related smartphone use, they experienced "disproportionate levels of ego depletion when dealing with self-control demands at work."
However, they found that when employees slept well, their self-control processes at work the next day were less likely to be impacted by work-related smart phone use the night before.
This in turn can translate into a more productive work day.
The bottom line appears to be that modern employees seeking to maximize their productivity should strategize their workday accounting for their humanity. No one can work around the clock without suffering both physically and mentally — which decreases output and accomplishment.
This should be good news for many people driven to succeed in business. Deciding to wind down and go to bed early is actually a sign of strength — which can facilitate increased productivity the following day.
This article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 3,00 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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