Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

Why you must leave work matters at the office

Manar Al Hinai shares three tips to help employees unwind and keep stress at bay

Stress can affect all office employees, from the most senior managers to junior staff. Getty Images
Stress can affect all office employees, from the most senior managers to junior staff. Getty Images

Last week I attended a suhoor gathering where I met a friend I haven’t seen in a while. One of my first questions to her was: “How’s work?” She smiled and replied: “Manar, let’s not talk about work. I stop talking about it when I leave the office at 4pm.”

I loved her response.

As an entrepreneur, I often find myself talking shop when I should be resting. I'll remember something, discuss it with a colleague on the phone, and then return to what I was doing before. Other times, as much as I try to completely zone out, I can’t resist getting some work done outside regular hours and I know I am not alone. Many of my fellow entrepreneur friends find themselves in a similar dilemma. Stress in America, a study commissioned by the American Psychology Association since 2007, found that millennials are the most stressed-out generation with work a major source of strain as well as health insurance and finances.

I recall my own rising stress levels, when I was given a senior vice president position in my last government role. I felt overwhelmed by having such a senior role at such a young age, suddenly managing colleagues who were my peers the day before the announcement was made. Another source of stress was being on several committees and overseeing multiple projects at the same time, in addition to managing my own business, fashion line and writing career. Feelings of imposter syndrome - where an individual doubts their accomplishments and fears they will be exposed as a fraud - and a sense of inadequacy due to my own desire for perfectionism also added to the mix.

Before I knew it, work stress was seeping into my personal life. When I'd first celebrated landing the new role with friends, I told them we’d stick to our traditional weekend meet-ups - nothing would change that. Soon, I was cancelling meet-ups to finish extra work on the weekend. I was sleeping less and I didn’t see my family as much. When I travelled, work came with me, and I found myself catching up on emails, updating social media pages and working on presentations when I should have been wandering the streets of Europe or simply people watching from a café.

You don’t need to have a senior role to feel this way. Work stress can affect everyone - from managers to the most junior staff. Thankfully, I quickly learned how to turn things around by following these three steps:

Leave work behind

This may seem hard to do, especially if you are close to a deadline or have email notifications forever popping up on your phone. My solution has been to create a transitional routine to help me adapt from work to home life. When I leave the office, I play classical music in the car and once at home I read a novel or listen to an interesting podcast. This sends a signal to my brain to wind down and leave work thoughts behind. I also avoid addressing work emails once I've left the office, unless it is an urgent matter.

Have a weekly break day

This is crucial; taking an entire day off once a week - where you do not even think about your work commitments - not only gives you time to do things you enjoy, but it also relaxes your mind and maintains your psychological well-being. I cherish and value my weekends so much more now and I insist on doing something completely unrelated to my work whether it's kayaking, going for a walk or spending a good evening with family and friends.

Share your concerns

As someone who prefers to handle things on my own, I rarely complain if something is troubling me. But that caused me to bottle-up stress. My cousin, a medical professional, encouraged me to talk about my concerns - even if I felt I could handle things. By opening up, my family has become part of my journey, which has actually been a huge relief.

By committing to exit the office at a certain time and leaving your work behind when you do go, you will create space for your personal life. Remember: maintaining a healthy work-life balance not only keeps your well-being in check but also makes you more productive.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi

Updated: May 25, 2019 06:11 PM

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