Our unhealthy obsession with work

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Photo by Bethany Legg on Unsplash

Mental health is a topic I have started to pay a lot closer attention to.

With work, comes pressure and expectation. Thankfully, these days it’s less about being ‘seen’ to work hard, and more about what you can achieve and how you go about doing that.

In my spare time, I play a small part in helping to run a community for recruiters, called DBR. I was talking to one of my friends in the community recently about the pressures of work and trying to achieve a good work-life balance. Something they said really stuck with me:

I got back from holiday and was like “omg I need to work late every night to make up for going away”

It stuck with me for a couple of reasons 1) I’ve been there myself 2) That level of worry and stress is not good.

So how do we stop work from becoming an unhealthy obsession, even an addiction?

Physical and Mental Health

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Me and my bro shortly after completing the 2014 London Marathon

At the moment, I’m training for the London Marathon. It will be my third London Marathon and my sixth overall. I’ve learnt a heck of a lot about how my body works and my limits, both physically and mentally. When you train too much, you’re tired and injuries soon follow. You’re forced to rest up and recover. You literally don’t have a choice.

 

When it comes to work, it’s not always that easy (or obvious). I’ve been seriously guilty of letting it run my life. Mondays to Fridays were off limits for social events as I’d be totally consumed by wanting to solve every work nag that was on my mind. Whilst 10pm is bedtime for some, I’d still be sat there working myself into a frenzy about what I hadn’t yet done ahead of the next day. It was unhealthy and, frankly, made me really unhappy. I didn’t recognise myself, was short-tempered and generally not a great person to be around.

Then last year, I heard some shocking news about a former colleague. It stopped me in my tracks. I was compelled me to take a closer look at my own mental health. More specifically where I draw the line between work and pleasure. Whilst I’m still quite an obsessive person, I’ve learnt both by myself and through the help of others that taking care of yourself is more important (and leads to better results anyway). It’s taught me that rest and recovery from intensive spells of work are just as important as when training.

How can you strike a balance?

The majority of things you do at work are important but not everything is urgent. When you’re there work hard, really hard but ruthlessly prioritise what actually needs to be now and what can actually wait for the next 12+ hours until you’re back the next day.

Here are a few practical tips to help switch off from work:

  • Snooze Slack notifications
  • Android users — separate ‘Work’ and ‘Personal’ profiles on your phone. (Or if you’re like me, just turn your work phone off when you get home)
  • Set office hours on your calendar so that colleagues know when scheduling meetings

We all have a responsibility to not only talk about our mental health but also to live by what we say, both for ourselves, our colleagues & friends. There will always be occasions when we need to work longer hours or get stressed out — we’re human after all. These, however, should be the exception rather than the norm and I challenge you all to think about how you can make that a reality.

First and foremost, look after yourself and look after each other. If you don’t look after yourself before and during a marathon, you’ll hit what is known as ‘The Wall’. From experience, it’s not a great place to be in.

Why wouldn’t you take work-life balance as seriously?

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I’m running the London Marathon in support of Mind, the mental health charity. If you would like to support this great charity please follow this link to my fundraising page — https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/kristian-bright

Interviews – How to deal with rejection

We’ve recently started to measure the candidate experience in our interview process. We’re early on in this process, but it’s proving interesting reading so far (see below). This survey is sent out to everybody that has an on-site interview at Lost My Name. It’s purpose to is to provide a platform to share feedback once the dust has settled post-interviews. As you’ll see from the graph below, we’re scoring OK, not great but not bad. There are certainly numerous ways that we can and will improve:

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I don’t ever expect to achieve full marks on these scores because a lot of people haven’t proceeded to the next interview stage either as a result of our decision making process or their own. However, it does give us an indication of how and where we can improve.

Looking at the results and comments, it really hit home to me the range of emotions that a candidate goes through.

Firstly, rejection is not a nice feeling. When you’ve had your heart set on a job, told family and friends and built up the excitement, it makes it all the more difficult to take. So what is the best way to respond and turn that rejection into a positive learning experience?

  1. Let it out – I’m not advocating a public display of outrage, but you need to release the anger/disappointment/frustration of missing out on that job that you really wanted. How?
    • Write it down – how you’re feeling. How did you find the experience of interviewing? What you liked and didn’t like? Why you think you missed out on the role after all? How did it make you feel to be told that isn’t right for you?
    • Talk to people – no doubt in the coming hours, days or even weeks you’ll speak to those close to you, recruiters, acquaintances and the topic will come up. You’re likely to receive the standard ‘it’s their loss’ or ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ or even ‘you should be proud for getting so far’….let’s face it, none of this really makes you feel any better does it? Find those that you trust and are willing to listen and talk through it, I promise you’ll feel better about it.
  2. Give it time – I’ve been rejected for roles in the past, ones that I’d invested significant time in preparing for…it didn’t work out and that sucks. The initial feelings of being gutted, then annoyed, then slightly bitter are all part of the process. However, like with any feeling, they pass. My biggest advice is to not jump straight to the next thing, take some time to consider options and let the dust settle.
  3. What did you learn? This is where you can turn a negative into a positive, share this experience with the company that you interviewed with. How you felt you were treated, what you enjoyed about the process. At Lost My Name, candidates can do this with the above mentioned method. Any company that is vested in improving its interview process and delivering a great candidate experience will be glad of the feedback.
  4. Future interviews – consider the feedback you received from the company. What did you do well, where did you fall short? Leverage this and take it forward to your next interview. You’ll be more confident in yourself. If there is one thing that I value extremely highly from an interviewee, it’s someone who can talk through a difficult time/situation and show key learnings from it. Successes tell you so much about a person, failures give a real insight into character, resilience and courage. Some of the qualities that we value so dearly in our teams.

You may or may not agree with the advice given above and that’s fine. Everyone is different and will deal with awkward and difficult situations differently. What I hope you will agree on is that a negative can be turned into a positive and the initial pain and frustration can quickly transform into a feeling of personal growth and maturity.
I’d love to hear other people’s views and comments on this subject as it’s one often ignored when we thinking about hiring and interviewing.