Protecting the Mental Health of Employees with Time Management
Mental health concerns are on the rise as the pandemic continues to affect the daily lives of workers. Ongoing uncertainty about the future of the pandemic, mixed messaging from governmental leadership, and civil unrest all contribute to increasing stress. The American Psychology Association found in a survey which you can access here that overall stress levels have risen from last year’s report of 4.9 to 5.9 as an average. Many professionals are struggling to work from home with their children out of school (or as is the case of the Connections 4 Success team, very needy pets). Workers with health conditions, those who have aging family members, and those fearful their income will cease are all reporting higher levels of stress.
Many businesses seeking ways to continue operations have sent employees home to work remotely or are working with various forms of flex scheduling. These workers are now forced to find balance between the demands at home and the demands of work without the previous benefit of physical separation between the two. Many workers were not prepared with proper equipment or the technical know-how to maintain productivity at home and required a lengthy adjustment period. Near constant distractions from significant others, pets, or the allure of a really comfortable couch threaten workers’ abilities to maintain productivity. Our insights have uncovered that some miss the commute between work and home, citing it as valuable time to mentally prepare or decompress.
The risk of failing to meet demands coupled with the already exacerbated stress levels is putting additional stress on executive leaders trying to maintain operations—many of whom have switched to remote work themselves. Executive leaders must be empathetic to the difficulties faced by their employees. Employees mental health and stress directly affect professional performance. Mindset has been proven to be directly correlated to productivity, and productivity allows for improved employee performance and creativity. It is important for leaders to make a conscious effort to convene non-work team activities to increase morale and communication. An awareness of your employees’ unique struggles will help you better encourage time management practices that will help them experience less stress and have better control over personal matters and work responsibilities.
Time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on activities. To successfully practice time management, you must have a thorough understanding of what tasks you need to accomplish, how long those tasks will take, and when you need to do them. There are a few ways to make sure you’re taking the right steps to ensure your time is working for you.
Find a system that works for you. Some people prefer to block calendars. Others prefer to work from to-do lists. Just be sure to regularly consult your system and adjust it as necessary.
Schedule in the most important tasks first. Work these tasks into your day when you are at your highest energy levels and best able to get work done. Fill in your other tasks around this time.
Although it is recommended to stay as close to your regular routine as possible, for many that is not possible anymore. Leave room for flexibility. Emergencies may come up or priorities and deadlines could change.
During this time of high stress, it’s likely that you will have more interruptions than usual. This is why it is important to block out time and try to protect it. Separate yourself as much as possible from potential distractions. Silence your phone for periods of time when you need to focus. Close out unneeded tabs on your browser.
Perhaps the most important time to protect is down-time. It is necessary to schedule in breaks between tasks. It’s easy to accidentally schedule too many Zoom meetings back-to-back when travel time is out of the equation or to continue working long past business hours when there seems to be no difference between work and home. The time away from work will help provide opportunities to re-energize, hydrate, stretch, and collect your thoughts. Regular breaks can improve productivity and efficiency.
The CDC has a list of recommendations for coping with stress. Among these are taking care of your mind and body. Communicate regularly with friends and loved ones. Eat healthy and get enough sleep. Make time for activities you enjoy. These simple steps can be the difference between surviving the disruption or succumbing to burnout. Read the full list of recommendations from the CDC here.
Proper time management practices take time and regular effort to master. By starting good habits today, you’ll be able to reap benefits quickly. You could put yourself in a position to consistently complete tasks, hit deadlines, and still take care of yourself and your loved ones. With stressors already as high as they are, proper time management can help you take back control.