Have you noticed how work culture can be sometimes? In America, we’re often told that work is a top priority. Maybe it’s not explicit, but it’s definitely implied. We feel guilty for taking sick days and vacations. We stay late at the office trying to catch up or get ahead. During crunch time, we might even work weekends.
We may even find ourselves lamenting these conditions to our friends and colleagues in a humble brag. It’s almost a competition to see how busy we can be.
You don’t have to go too far to see the power of work culture play out in our lives—just look at the struggle and stigma new parents face to take off of work to spend time caring for a newborn child.
It’s not even just about that, though. How many of us feel the pressure to work beyond the 40-hour work week? Especially in positions of leadership, it can feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to get it all done. While we think of full-time jobs as working that 40-hour work week, the truth is most full-time employees in America work 47 hours. Some more.
And in fact, those who work 55 hours or more, according to studies, are putting themselves at a huge health risk. Not only do long hours lead to greater potential for heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems, but they lead to inactivity, anxiety, depression, and poor health habits like smoking and risky drinking.
Despite some critics of the study, we don’t have to look far to see real consequences of overwork. It wasn’t long ago that Japanese reporter Miwa Sado reportedly died of “overwork” after clocking in 159 hours of overtime. She suffered from heart failure.
So what does overworking have to do with leadership?
4 Ways Work-Life Balance Makes Better Leaders
1) You’re more mentally engaged.
Work-life balance is something that isn’t totally achievable. Not in our digital age where we’re constantly connected to work e-mails and work messengers and work phone calls. But when we have more time away from active work—time with family, hobbies, and real rest—it leaves us more refreshed and prepared to work when we actually need to.
When we can rest and be separated from work, even for fewer hours, the quality of those hours is going to be greater than if we were working for longer.
2) It establishes boundaries.
In leadership, boundaries matter. Not only for ourselves and establishing the line between work and our personal lives, but in establishing other lines at work. As leaders, we don’t exist to hold anyone’s hands or bail anyone out. We need boundaries between ourselves and the people we work with. There is a point where others must be encouraged to take ownership and agency over their work. They must respect your time and your boundaries. If you have prioritized your work-life balance, you won’t be taken advantage of so easily.
3) It trickles down.
As leaders, we’re only as good as our team members. While we often hear of big companies and corporations whose leadership claims to value work-life balance, we see that the lives they live reflect a different story.
When you yourself place a high value on balance in your life and value on your physical and mental health, that is going to make an impact on the people you lead. Impart those values to them. Stress the importance of values. It will make your team better and more effective long-term.
4) You’ll be healthier & happier.
Working better, balanced hours also means you’ll be in a better place personally. You’ll be healthier and happier. How does your personal state affect leadership? Think about it. If you’re in a good mood, doesn’t that affect how well you listen? How you react to any given situation? Isn’t the same true of a bad mood?
When we’re feeling stressed and burned out, we don’t tend to treat people well or make great decisions. It compromises our immune systems, makes us more prone to needing to take sick days or, worse, getting the team sick. It’s not a great environment for leadership.
Then, there are the other health problems mentioned in the very beginning: many of which can make a swift end to any career. When you look back on your life, do you want your memories to be of long nights full of work and stress?
For the sake of your health and for the people you lead and love: take a break.