Valérie Fernandez

By Valérie Fernandez

February 2, 2017


Why It’s Not Good to Bring Your Work Home

Article revised on 8 June 2017

5 questions for Maude Villeneuve, a workplace mental health expert

Maude Villeneuve is an expert in the strategic prevention of mental health issues in the workplace. She holds a Master’s degree in Industrial Relations and is in the process of completing a PhD in Business Administration at Laval University. She also acts as a lecturer and research professional at the university’s Chair in Workplace Health and Safety Management.

When I sat down with her for an interview recently, I asked about the importance of not taking work home. Her advice on leaving work at the office may be useful to you.

Stéphanie Chrétien: New technologies enable us to work and stay connected to work when we’re at home. What do you think of this trend?

Maude Villeneuve: Modern technological advances are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they offer undeniable benefits such as the flexibility of being able to do some work at home, which facilitates work-life balance. On the other hand, these technologies can result in blurring of the lines between your private and professional life. Always having access to work when you’re at home makes it hard to switch off, and that is not without consequence… It has an impact on your health and on the organization!

SC: Why is it important to know how to keep our work and our personal life separate?

MV: Don’t underestimate the importance of having some me-time. It allows you to unwind, recharge and decompress after a day of work. When we take work home with us, we don’t pull the plug on our work-related concerns. That really drains our battery and impacts our well-being in the long run. Studies have shown that people who set clear boundaries between their private and professional lives are unquestionably more accepting of their workload, feel less stressed and demonstrate greater engagement toward their organization. When it comes down to it, knowing how to disconnect is beneficial to both the employee and the employer!

SC: How can always being connected to work affect a person’s health?

MV: The psychological and physiological impacts of never-ending connection are the same as those of chronic workplace stress. You increase your risks of depression, anxiety, sleep trouble, cardiovascular diseases, etc. The repercussions for your organization can be very costly in terms of sick leaves, greater staff turnover, diminished performance, etc.

SC: Do you have any tips that can help us disconnect from work?

MV: It all depends on you and your work situation. Some people turn off work-related message notifications after office hours. Others follow a little ritual that helps them unplug mentally: going for a workout, having a cup of tea, reading a chapter in their novel, meditating, etc. There is no magic formula that works for everyone. Just find what works for you. Most importantly, make a point of applying it even during times when you’re busier at work.

SC: You mentioned that employee disconnection from work also benefits employers. What should employers do to encourage their employees to disconnect at the end of the business day?

MV: Employers have a major role to play in promoting disconnection from work when it’s time to go home. Limiting the requirement for employees to take work home with them, even during peak periods, is the first step. Employers must develop clear policies in this regard and ensure that they are integrated into the corporate culture. Management practices must demonstrate evident concern for staff, which represent the organization’s life blood. After all, employees’ long-term inability to unplug from work can prove to be of significant harm and costly.

To find out more about Maude Villeneuve’s work, visit the Chair in Workplace Health and Safety Management website.

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