Lancaster University

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Professor's Book On Work Life Balance

01/30/2008 10:22:26


Are you working too many hours? Does your boss put you on a psychological guilt trip to get you to put in even more time? Or are you yourself to blame for letting your 9-to-5 become your 24/7?

Experts now believe that many of us - whilst complaining loudly and bitterly about work-mountains and pressure overload - are actually causing the problem ourselves.

Workplace psychologist Professor Cary Cooper from Lancaster University Management School said there is a growing trend of deliberately leaving work unfinished to give ourselves something to stress over - and we may not even realise we're doing it:

"In many cases we're our own worst enemies, leaving tasks unfinished as a sort of stress 'comfort blanket', an indication that we feel guilty if we don't have something to worry about. It's like being on an unconscious voyage of self-sabotage. Most of us could benefit from stepping back a little, analysing our day and reorganising the way we work."

His new book, 'Detox Your Desk', teaches us how to get a grip at work so we can get more fun out of life, has come up with five top tips to help us get back in control:

"Work is spilling into our private lives like never before with laptop computers and mobile phones that receive emails making it harder than ever to switch off and escape.

"Brits now have the longest working hours in the developed world. We've always worked far longer than our more sociable colleagues in Europe, but now we're putting in even longer hours than the United States, and that's worrying.

"Embracing new technology SHOULD mean we're able to work less, but something seems to have gone wrong, and I believe a two-pronged approach is needed to get us on track again.

"Firstly, as workers we need to manage our time at work better. But our bosses also have their part to play - they should be more flexible and employ 'give' as well as 'take' on occasion. For example, if you've had to ask extra of your staff, as every company reasonably does from time to time, there should be a payback too."


1: INVEST IN PEOPLE - one of the most toxic, time wasting and demoralising things in an office is bad relationships. Positive interaction pays dividends in the long term - and makes us happier too.

2: VARY YOUR ROUTINE - try to do at least one thing different each day - simple things: take a walk or have a sit in the park.

3: DON'T PROCRASTINATE! - if you put off doing the jobs you hate, you'll use more time and energy worrying about them.

4: AVOID 'SELF-SABOTAGE' - how many times have you spun out the job to fit the time - and then end up running late because something unexpected crops up....

5: KNOW WHEN TO GO! Devise an exit strategy - plan something in your private life and then you'll have to leave on time - it makes you more focused and you'll actually get more done.

Professor Cooper said: “My detox plan is more than just a tidy up - it's a working philosophy. When you de-clutter your mind you'll be able to see the wood from the trees again, and your decision making will become more focused because there won't be so many things in the way.

"But the big bonus is, if you crack it, you'll have more time to spend with your family, to socialise with your friends or just to chill out doing your own thing."