Those who did not organize a clear separation between work and free time were less likely to take part in activities that could help them relax and recover from the demands of their work. (Shutterstock/File)
New European research is encouraging us to take a break from work and set boundaries between our personal and professional lives, after finding that failure to do so can lead to exhaustion.
Carried out by Ariane Wepfer and colleagues from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, the study looked at 1,916 employees from a broad range of sectors in German-speaking countries.
Most of the participants were married (70.3 percent), 55.8 percent were men, and the average age of the group was 42.3 years. Half worked 40 hours or more per week (50.1 percent).
The participants were asked to take part in an online study which looked at how well they were able to manage the boundaries between their work and non-work lives, for example, how often they took work home, how often they worked on weekends, and how often they thought about work during their time off.
Participants were also asked to report on whether they made time to relax after work, for example to socialize with friends or do sports and other hobbies, and how careful they were to make sure that their work did not interfere with their private lives.
To measure well-being, the researchers took into account how physically and emotionally exhausted the participants felt, as well as how well they felt they balanced work and non-work.
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The results showed that those who did not organize a clear separation between work and free time were less likely to take part in activities that could help them relax and recover from the demands of their work.
This therefore led to them feeling more exhausted, a reduced work-life balance, and a reduced sense of well-being in different key aspects of their lives.
“Employees who integrated work into their non-work life reported being more exhausted because they recovered less,” commented Wepfer. “This lack of recovery activities furthermore explains why people who integrate their work into the rest of their lives have a lower sense of well-being.”
Wepfer also noted that companies should aim to do more to help employees balance their work so it does not affect their personal life or well-being.
“Organizational policy and culture should be adjusted to help employees manage their work-non-work boundaries in a way that does not impair their well-being,” she said. “After all, impaired well-being goes hand in hand with reduced productivity and reduced creativity.”
The findings can be found published online in the Journal of Business and Psychology.