The coronavirus pandemic has many of us worried about our jobs, and with good reason. As noted by the Pew Research Center, the U.S. unemployment rate rose higher from February to May 2020 than it did in two years during the great recession. Given that the pandemic isn’t over and there’s still a chance that many of us may wind up without a job, I can’t blame you for going out of your way to prove yourself indispensable to your employer.
Unfortunately, there’s also little doubt in my mind that those efforts are ruining your work-life balance.
Drastically increased workloads. Sleepless nights. A near endless list of unprecedented worries and new family responsibilities. Hyperconnected digital workplaces that encourage us to always be online, to always be responding to work emails.
There’s also little doubt in my mind that plenty of unscrupulous employers are taking full advantage of this situation, milking this rare chance at unpaid labor. After all, an employee who’s afraid for their job is less likely to speak up about abusive work conditions. And all this is tinged with the constant anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with uncertainty about one’s financial future.
Given the circumstances, it’s only natural to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. But burying yourself in your work is not the answer. Nor is disconnecting from work altogether.
It’s normal to crave professional success. It’s normal to desire financial stability. And it’s normal to seek upward momentum in your career. What isn’t normal —what too many people seem to currently be doing — is disconnecting from family, friends, and hobbies to take on increasingly-punishing workloads.
It’s been comprehensively proven that we make more mistakes when we’re tired. That the quality of our work gradually declines with our level of exhaustion. Let’s give a few bullet point examples of exactly what that entails.
When we’re tired, we’re likelier to:
- Fall victim to a phishing scam or malware campaign, with potentially catastrophic results for our employer.
- Forward sensitive information to an unauthorized party.
- Make simple mistakes that even a novice wouldn’t ordinarily make.
- Work less efficiently and effectively.
In other words, without a proper work/life balance, it isn’t just productivity that suffers. Everything does. And while you as an employee should set healthier boundaries and limit when, where, and how you work, the responsibility lies equally at the feet of your employer.
And that’s who I’m speaking to with this next section.
Who do you think is more valuable to your business? A healthy, well-rested, well-compensated employee that feels respected and valued? Or a perpetually fatigued workhorse who’s constantly at your beck and call?
It’s also important to note that if you’re abusive to your workforce during the pandemic, people are not going to forget about that. Now more than ever, people are fed up. And when the pandemic eventually comes to an end, your business and brand will experience a reckoning.
Employers: empower your employees. Give them the authority and autonomy to make their own choices and protect themselves and their families. Let them work how and when they choose, trust that they’ll do the job you hired them to do, and make an effort to understand the toll 2020 and 2021 have taken on everyone’s mental health.
Employees, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Set healthy boundaries, and know that your well-being comes first. You cannot work effectively if you’re constantly suffering from a lack of sleep, nor can you put your best foot forward if you’re neglecting your mental health.
These are difficult times. And if we’re to come out the other side intact, we all need to work together. We need to prop each other up and consider one another’s physical and mental health.
Because no one benefits when we work ourselves to the bone.
About the Author: Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.