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Science Behind Work-Life Balance

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April 24, 2020—It's important for a worker to go home, and leave the stress of the work day behind him or her, says Joe Robinson, work-life balance and stress management trainer and speaker for his own company Optimal Performance Strategies. Robinson has appeared on CNN, NBC Nightly News, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and more. 

"Work-life balance is an essential piece of productivity," Robinson says. "It turns out the energy or vitality we have in a given day comes from having a balance outside the job where we're able to get exercise, be healthy, eat right, so work and life are a team."

As a result of the coronavirus that has hit the world, work-life balance is more important now than ever, with boundaries blurring for those that are working from home. Experts have been influxing the news with recommendations on how a business can perform better with its social media efforts and smart marketing practices during this time. 

So, you might be wondering, what does this have to do with how I keep up with vehicle technology? Think about how much stress you're experiencing right now. You're handling the day-to-day business operations, navigating changes in business due to COVID-19, and simultaneously, you're working ahead on your business and worrying about how new car features enter the industry in the immediate and far future. 

Not to mention, your team might be scattered over different locations to ensure social distancing and you're navigating how to use remote technology to keep the business running and stay in contact with your staff.

That's a lot to stress about. 

Before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders may have been focusing on how to run their businesses externally but are now juggling more tasks. While you focus on preparing the business to succeed in the future by learning how to repair cars of the future, you  also need to be proactive in your own self-management. 


How Stress Affects the Body

According to Robinson, bodies demand to an equilibrium. When stressed out, bodies go into an activation mode where adrenaline is being poured through veins to pump people up and get them through the situation. 

When the body is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) contributes to its "fight or flight" response, according to American Psychological Association

The APA outlines the fight or flight response as:

Acute stress — stress that is momentary or short-term such as meeting deadlines, being stuck in traffic or suddenly slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident — causes an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle, with the stress hormones — adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol — acting as messengers for these effects. In addition, the blood vessels that direct blood to the large muscles and the heart dilate, thereby increasing the amount of blood pumped to these parts of the body and elevating blood pressure.

After that, the body needs to recover. So, the parasympathetic nervous system is about rest and digest and that is about eating foods to replace the fats and sugars that are burned up when in activation mode. 

"We're supposed to be in a balanced state so we come back to equilibrium as a result," Robinson says.


How Stress Impacts Leadership

Stress does not only have negative effects on the body but on a leader's work relationship as well. If a leader is stressed and is considered a "workaholic" then that leader is going to make everyone else feel like a workaholic. Teams will end up burning out and potentially quitting, Robinson says.

"Managers that talk about their lives outside the job give permission to the people that work with them to do the same thing," he says. "And if you're not having conversations like that and modeling overdoing it, people are going to feel resentful because they're going to feel their only option is to be a workaholic like you."


How to Manage Balance Stress and Leave Work Behind

  1. A leader needs to check mail and phones at designated times during the day. Four times a day is considered the most productive, Robinson says. Every other moment of the day, those devices should be turned off. 
  2. Keep your stress at bay. Give people breaks. This might entail 15-minute breaks in the morning and afternoon. And, allow workers to take vacations. These steps go a long way in offering a team morale.
  3. Maintain boundaries between work and home. Keep in place boundaries like time. So, at 6 p.m. for example, stop working and turn off all work related devices. Turn to other responsibilities and recovery time. Maybe recovery time includes listening to music, exercise or a hobby.

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