Work life is now more stressful than even the most controversial brand of politics. Diminishing job security amidst frequent downsizings, mergers and acquisitions has imbued people with chronic unsettledness, worry and excessive stress over their job.
Work Stress And Depression
Work stress is inevitable, but it is usually clipped with the expectation of longevity and loyalty from those higher up the hierarchy. A chronic version of this stress leads to depression, more or less due to lack of control and the underlying sense of helplessness in their professional lives.
While ideal workplaces are where employees feel a sense of belonging and attain the support of their colleagues, the reality is starkly opposite. Most organisations fail to encourage true collaboration and are not able to engender a sense of safety or fairness.
Why Is This Happening Now?
People today are working longer hours, so much that the usual routine is restricted mostly to work, commute and sleep. An eye-opening reality related to longer work hours was divulged by a Gallup Report in 2014. It said that 4 of every 10 Americans put in more than 50 hours a week at work, which is a reflection of deteriorating work-life balance, as this figure stood at only 38 hours a week in 2003 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
This figure doesn’t include the time taken to commute or the hours put in after leaving the office or on weekends. This whacked up work-life balance does what other things in life put together don’t – it takes away the ability to enjoy life as it is.
This is the case with most global companies. A 24×7 workload is generated as employees from different time zones struggle to maintain a constant contact. They feel like keeping their phones by their side all the time, even in bed, and get anxious if they don’t. This vicious cycle is a detriment to restful sleep.
A compromised, insufficient sleep is a risk factor for both anxiety and depression.
Working From Home
With the rise of “gig” culture, more people have started working from home. And, while this promotes self-dictated working hours and telecommunication, it also brings with it certain drawbacks. A sense of isolation and lack of physical company (no co-workers) is a precursor to depression and anxiety.
It also keeps them from using workplace benefits like health insurance.
The type of job
The freedom that comes with freelancing is undoubtedly appreciable. But it is contested by the fact that people are more likely to develop depression due to jobs that make them feel isolated, lonely or highly stressed. Without a supportive professional network, a person can be left without the appreciation that comes with good work.
While some people have an outgoing personality and like to be surrounded by friends and colleagues, there are those who prefer being by themselves. Understanding personality can help understand the type of work environment that suits each individual the best.
It is no wonder that with a surplus of easily available talent, employees have become insecure about their jobs. With some organisations and managers treating their employees like disposable gloves, this fear has become commonplace.
Other Consequences of Work-Life Imbalance
In short term, work-life imbalance results in:
- Missing important life events
- Spending less time with family and friends
- Interference in the time spent with friends and family
- Lack of engagement and focus
- Poor morale
- Decrease in productivity
In the long term, there are risks that can potentially endanger life. These are:
- High risk of cardiovascular diseases – Employees who work over 55 hours in a week are at a much higher risk of developing such diseases.
- High risk of depression – Employees who work for more than 55 hours in a week are at a higher risk of developing depression and related diseases. In fact, in comparison to those who worked for 38-40 hours a week, these people have a 66 times higher risk of depression and 74x risk of anxiety.
- Those working in their off-hours or on weekend develop high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) over time. This contributes to poor quality of sleep and a sense of constant tiredness.
How to Cope With It?
While work stress is inevitable, depression isn’t. There are steps to take to avoid feeling overly burdened at work or during off hours. Some of them are:
- Switch off the phone: Constantly checking notifications and emails from work interferes with leisure or off time. This stresses out the body. Instead, switch off the phone and enjoy time off without worrying about work.
- Exercise: It boosts energy and concentration. Also, it is a good way to loosen up after a stressful week. Also, if possible, exercise at least 3-5 days a week for long-lasting effect.
- Eliminate the Needless: Losing hours each day scrolling through social media apps isn’t the right approach to leisure. Instead, focus on the more important and rewarding parts of life. Or, spend this time with family.
Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and drugs are addictive. But more than that, alcohol is a depressant. This is to say that no matter the amount drunk, it can make people more likely get the blues. It can harm the brain and lead to depression.
Also, when drunk beyond good sense, bad decisions or acting on impulse is very likely. Consequently, ruining a relationship or losing a job is a big risk. And, if that happens, it is even more likely to feel down or depressed.
Depression is a harrowing experience, and with so many stresses in life, avoiding this ‘dementor’ is much better than battling it. With work dominating the lives and leisure of most people, it is important to understand and level work-life imbalance. Remember that we work to live and not live only to work.