• Lorraine Buckley

Leaveism & Catching Enough Z's

The Term 'Leaveism'

Leaveism is a relatively new term used to describe when employees work during time off or non-paid hours. This is, unfortunately, a common problem, especially in corporations, and should go noticed more often. If ignored, leaveism can lead to stress and decreased productivity.

  • Do you stay late at work to complete tasks?

  • Are you continually opening work emails during your vacation?

  • Are you watching a movie with friends but spend the time worried about work projects?

  • Have you used annual leave in fear of availing of sick days to avoid the risk of looking lazy?

If you have answered yes to any of the above questions, you have experienced leaveism.

A report by Deloitte stated that "51% of employees were working outside contracted hours and 36% were taking allocated time off when they were, in fact, unwell."

Problems Caused by Overworking

Sleep Disturbance

Overworking can have a visible adverse effect on sleep. Pushing yourself too hard and forcing yourself to get work done outside of your assigned hours can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Exhaustion, stress, and anxiety can all prohibit your ability to get sufficient sleep. Over time, sleep deprivation can impose several health complications, such as memory problems and heart disease.

“Under-slept employees are not, therefore, going to drive your business forward with productive innovation. Like a group of people riding stationary exercise bikes, everyone looks like they are pedaling, but the scenery never changes. The irony that employees miss is that when you are not getting enough sleep, you work less productively and thus need to work longer to accomplish a goal. This means you often must work longer and later into the evening, arrive home later, go to bed later, and need to wake up earlier, creating a negative feedback loop. Why try to boil a pot of water on medium heat when you could do so in half the time on high? People often tell me that they do not have enough time to sleep because they have so much work to do. Without wanting to be combative in any way whatsoever, I respond by informing them that perhaps the reason they still have so much to do at the end of the day is precisely because they do not get enough sleep at night.”

Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

Mental & Physical Health Issues

Studies have pointed towards those who dedicate themselves to more than 55 hours of work per week have a 33% bigger chance of putting themselves at risk of stroke. These percentages are in contrast to people who worked 35-40 hours a week.

Perhaps this can be linked to the higher levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, along with poor lifestyle choices.

Long term sickness leave from work is usually a result of mental health issues and stress.

Finding a Balance

We often accept working long hours as expected, feeling satisfied due to the effort we put in, hoping we are next to choose for a promotion. Sometimes we feel motivated to keep going, and this can be great in allowing you to learn and grow within your career. However, consistent overworking can become a habit, leading to stress and exhaustion, affecting the immune system and leading to physical illness.

Over time, a lack of sleep and rest between working hours will negatively impact our mental and physical wellbeing. Being too busy means we opt for convenient food choices with no nutritional value, get less than eight hours of sleep, and compromise important relationships. If your work life is disturbing mental and physical wellbeing, perhaps you should reprioritize.

Learn how to switch off during the movie time with family, delegate two days of the week where you can stay at work a little bit later, allocate one day of the vacation to catch up on work if it cannot wait until your return, and use your sick days when you need them. Finding a balance will be more beneficial to your success and health in the long run and prevent you from burning out.

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