When you’re a manager, it can feel as if the workday never really ends. After all, it’s your job to keep the work humming along. You’re required to plan and orchestrate the seamless collaboration of people and processes to achieve both short-term and long-range goals.
That means, in short, that you’re tasked with being an analyst, strategist, problem-solver, coach and mentor all at once. That’s a tall mountain to climb for anyone, no matter how well-trained or experienced you may be.
It’s little wonder, then, that so many managers find themselves becoming overworked and overwhelmed. This article describes strategies business leaders can use to protect their mental health by recognizing the signs of overwork and taking proactive steps to prevent it.
Recognizing the Signs of Overwork
When you are in leadership, it can be difficult to ever truly break away from work. After all, the success of your company and your team rests largely on your shoulders. You may realize that even during off hours, you constantly check your work email or text messages or your thoughts drift back to work-related issues.
Even if you are not consciously aware of a preoccupation with work, you may nevertheless experience symptoms that indicate underlying anxiety or sleep deprivation likely caused by overwork. You may also experience physical impacts of work-related exhaustion such as headaches or increased blood pressure.
Whether you are already experiencing the signs and symptoms of overwork, or you want to take proactive steps to prevent them, there are ways to find a healthier work/life balance as a manager.
Set boundaries. It can be easy for salaried managers to be “always on,” attending to work matters any time of day. That’s why the first and most important step is to set firm boundaries (and adhere to them). Ensure that your work actually ends at the close of each work day. Teach your clients and colleagues to respect your off hours, and make sure you do the same by resisting the temptation to “check in” or “get a few things done” while you’re at home or on vacation.
Delegate tasks. Avoiding burnout and overwork is about more than your life after hours. At work, take a step back from your hands-on approach and analyze which tasks you could delegate to your employees. Not only is task delegation essential for managing your workload, it’s also a managerial skill that empowers employees and helps them learn new things.
Prepare them for your absence. In this vein, set your team up for success by training them to excel while you’re on vacation. Coach them on how to resolve conflicts and solve problems. Doing so won’t render you obsolete as a manager — it will ensure there are no fires to put out when you get back and enable you to focus on new improvements now that your team can handle problem-solving and new tasks.
Consider automation. In some cases, you might not want to delegate tasks to employees. Instead, automating certain tasks will enable everyone to focus on higher-level work. For example, you could use AI software to approve employee workflows, create schedules, update information and more. Automation is a great way to displace some of your workloads and make room for the tasks, such as coaching, that only a human manager can do.
Make the most of your time off. It’s also critical to make time for socializing and recreation. You won’t reap the rewards of your off hours if you’re worrying about work and waiting for the new business day to begin. Instead, use your personal time to gather with family and friends, engage in a physical activity you enjoy or participate in a favorite hobby.
Use evenings and weekends to enjoy mini-staycations and ensure you’re taking at least one or two full vacations a year. These little adventures will help you replenish and rejuvenate not only your body but also your mind and spirit.
Sometimes it seems as if a manager’s work is never done. However, if you don’t make the commitment to setting boundaries and striking a healthier work/life balance, you may well find yourself paying a physical and emotional price for your overwork.