How many hours of your life have you spent working so far? Ever calculated it? If you landed your first job at 20, have worked a 35-hour workweek, have never been unemployed (a real privilege these days!) and owing to careful investing are planning to take early retirement at 55, you will have spent 59,045 hours of your life working. To maximize your sense of well being, satisfaction and efficiency while on the job, you need to adapt strategies that can help you maintain a balance between the demands of your job and your personal needs.
Did you know that counting weekends, holidays and annual vacation, we have about 125 days/year, plus after-work time, for recreational pursuits and our families?
PROTECTING YOURSELF AGAINST WORKPLACE IRRITANTS
There are numerous situations, both on the job and in life, over which we have no control, irritating situations that end up draining our energies: a co-worker who gets to work in a foul mood, computer breakdowns, delays, deadlines, ornery customers, and so forth. How can you keep your energy up in the face of these daily assaults and make your work life more pleasant?
Fast response for emergency situations
Do you have to cope with a situation that is beyond your control? The trick is to take control of your response to the situation. Try to downplay the impact of the situation while putting it all in perspective.
- Visualize the situation and mentally add some incongruous background music or a funny scenario. You’ll be quietly laughing at it all inside in no time at all.
- Ask yourself: How important will this be in x days/months/years? Is it really crucial to attain your objectives? Could you achieve your goal some other way?
- Think about what is out of your control and what is within your control. Feeling guilty, getting anxious or flogging a dead horse is simply a waste of time. Better to act on what you can change.
- Last resort: How important will this situation be in the final tally, that is, when you reflect on your life in your final days?
Watch out for polluters
How much time do we spend every day moaning about things with our office co-workers? We generally come out of such, sessions feeling deflated, and even more dissatisfied than before. We either feed on each other’s despair or allow ourselves to be contaminated by the problems and conflicts around us. To prevent this from happening, here are a few strategies:
- Limit the time and energy you spend on such office discussions. Focus on the tasks at hand and on positive feelings and events.
- Seek out constructive support by discussing the situation with a neutral person rather than with someone who is too emotionally involved.
- Team spirit and assisting one another are important, but watch out for toxic situations.
CREATE YOUR OWN SPACE AND FEELING OF WELL-BEING IN THE WORKPLACE
To feel good on the job and keep your wits about you along with your strengths and resources, you need to centre and energize yourself on a regular basis. Here are a few suggestions:
- Surround yourself with objects you like without cluttering up your workspace.
- When you are stressed and pressed for time, slow down; the rest will follow!
- Classic strategy: take a few minutes out to refresh yourself, body and mind. Do a few exercises, adjust your posture, seek out a diversion or have a snack.
- Give yourself a treat by going out for lunch once a week with a friend, paying special attention to ensure the meal is appetizing and pleasant.
- Reserve 15 minutes of solitude at the office.
- Slow down in the last 20 to 30 minutes of the day. Tidy up your office, get things organized mentally and sum up the events of the day. If you cannot work at a slower pace, it’s better to rest and turn off for a few minutes at the office than to bring the tension home.
Manage your time… and your energy
- Set your priorities every day, and assess the results at the end of the day.
- Focus your work on the tasks over which you have control and authority.
How to end the workday and re-energize yourself for the evening?
- Make a point of relaxing after work by paying special attention to your surroundings on your way home. Get in touch with your senses: look, smell, listen, taste and feel to reconnect with your inner self.
- On your way home, think about your accomplishments, what you’ve achieved, or about a pleasant event, meeting or feeling.
- Once you get home, restrict shoptalk to 15 minutes. Sum up the day by going over the worst and the best thing about your day.
Do you need some strategies for building up your energies on the job?
Carefully read the following statements and circle the answer that corresponds best to your situation in the past few weeks of work. How frequently do you experience these situations on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is never and 5 is always?
|I lose all track of time when I’m working.||1||2||3||4||5|
|I forget all about taking breaks when I’m working.||1||2||3||4||5|
|I’m so involved in my work that I’m no longer aware of physiological needs (hunger, thirst, fatigue, need to go to the bathroom) or I neglect these needs.||1||2||3||4||5|
|I feel irritated with my co-workers, boss or customers.||1||2||3||4||5|
|Once I get home, I spend a lot of time talking about my problems at work.||1||2||3||4||5|
|I feel unmotivated when it comes to work.||1||2||3||4||5|
|Going to work is a real drag for me.||1||2||3||4||5|
|I feel tired and I have trouble overcoming the feeling.||1||2||3||4||5|
|I’m not sleeping well because I’m thinking about my job.||1||2||3||4||5|
|I don’t have much energy for myself, my family, my friends or for recreational pursuits.||1||2||3||4||5|
|Sum up your points:||+||+||+||+||=|
Between 1 and 20
Well done! Things are running very smoothly for you at work! Despite a few occasional problems, you are in control of the situation. You have on already developed your own strategies to ensure your well-being on the job and you have achieved a solid work-life balance. Take note of your strategies and continue to use them.
Between 21 and 30
You have a few strategies for re-energizing yourself. But you are still experiencing some problems that impact your well-being at work. You might benefit from adding a few new tricks to your arsenal. Your life at work and in general your situation might well be happier…
Between 31 and 40
Take care! Your vital energy is down. But there’s still time to act. Take some time to devise a mini action plan to improve your well-being on the job. Ask your friends and family for suggestions or consult a professional.
Between 41 and 50
Danger signal ! It’s time you reconnect with your inner self. If you continue in the same vein, you may well develop health problems in the long term. Take some of the energy you’re investing into your work and invest it in developing a more balanced, happier and more effective approach. Consult a professional to help you see more clearly and develop some strategies for ensuring your well being on the job.
Bruno Fortin, Comment avoir plus d’énergie?, 2001.
Bruno Fortin, Prendre soin de sa santé mentale, Éditions du Méridien, 1997.
Barbara Mackoff, Comment décrocher, Éditions Le Jour, Collection Actualisation, 1990.
Contributors to this issue:
Guylaine Bellerose, M.Ps et Marie-Claude Boulet, psychologist