Why leaders should encourage their teams to switch off

by John Hilton18 May 2017
Research by the American Psychological Association and the National Opinion Research Centre at the University of Chicago explored the impact of workplace expectations on health.

Their report published in 2013 found that 53% of workers found work left them ‘overtired and overwhelmed’.

“This comes as no surprise when we look at workplace behaviours of working long hours, taking work home and being contactable 24/7,” said Angela Lockwood, occupational therapist and author of Switch Off. How to find calm in a noisy world.

She added that Monash University was awarded the 2016 Global Healthy Workplace in recognition for their Wellbeing at Monash program developed to support staff to adopt healthy work and lifestyle practices.

Their program takes a holistic approach to health through providing programs on mindfulness and stress, quit smoking support and physical activity classes.

“Encouraging employees to switch off from work by not taking work home, leaving work at a reasonable hour or not having a work phone with them on holidays benefits the organisation in many ways," she said.

"This includes through reduction in absenteeism, lower injury related insurance claims, less internal workplace conflict, greater work satisfaction creating more loyal employees, higher productivity and quality of work output.”

She added that employees are looking at what their leaders and managers are doing themselves as much as what they are saying or what is ‘the policy’.

Lockwood said that in order to create a workplace culture where health and wellbeing are a priority, two simple rules need to apply:

Understand the meaning of workplace health and wellness

If health and wellness is to be a priority within the workplace leaders must understand that health and wellness is not just being ‘absence of disease and injury’. Employees are looking for ways they can put their best foot forward and have the energy and stamina to get them through their day which is a shift from being strictly ‘injury free’ or low rates of absenteeism. A productive employee is one who turns up each day and can give their best in all areas of their work.

Lead by example

How hypocritical is it when an obese doctor advises a patient to lose weight to avoid a heart attack? We go to our health professionals for guidance and expertise so we expect they practice what they preach. Employees also look to leaders for guidance and modeling of positive work behavior. There is no point encouraging positive switch off behaviours like taking a lunch break, not taking work home or staying at work late, when the leaders do not do this themselves. To support their teams to adopt healthy switch-off habits, leaders must model and practice positive switch off habits. If leaders are to truly lead they need to be role models to aspire to.

 

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