Tips From A Recovering Workaholic

3 min read

Hey team! I’m taking two days off to focus on my mental health.” Wrote no one in their out- of-office message. Ever. 

Until web developer Madalyn Parker did. 

It looks like a simple enough message, but Parker’s frank honesty about her mental health condition and her boss’s positive response, saw that simple message go viral. The Twittersphere praised Parker for de-stigmatising mental health issues, and her boss for backing her. So does that positive response indicate we are on the right track when it comes to balancing work and the messiness of home life? Are employers’ beginning to respect the concept of ‘out of office hours’? 

I sure hope so. Because facilitating rest periods and a healthy balance between work, family and personal life increases productivity, talent retention and ultimately the bottom line. It’s win-win all round.

Working as a lawyer, I rarely had time to carve out space for life outside the office. I was headed towards burnout, fast.

I now know if you want to stay productive, avoid burnout and be happy at work you have got to get a life outside of it. This means making time to pause and stretch in bed before launching yourself into the shower; perfecting your downward dog, finishing your book club book (for once), saying ‘yes’ to dinner with a friend on Friday night. You have to call your mum, walk your dog and pat the cat… whatever it is, it’s good for you (and your employer) to unwind regularly from the daily grind.

Here are a few traps I used to fall into. If you’re still doing any of these, perhaps it’s time for a re-think.

Inbox zero is overrated

You don’t need to respond to every email within ten minutes. No one should expect to receive an email back that quickly. It’s unreasonable. Plus, by responding this fast you’re giving the impression you’ve got time on your hands or that your time isn’t valuable.

Call time out

It’s fine to take sick leave if you’re worn out, mentally or physically. The world isn’t going to implode because you’re not sitting at your desk. I promise. Your colleagues should understand and if they don’t, they’ll get over it.

IT'S TIME TO CHILL. Have you been working crazy hours? Are you struggling to sleep? Burnout might not be far away. Follow this advice to restore balance.

Let your boss do their job

If your workload is out of control, ask your boss for more resources. This is a work flow issue. This is their job, not yours. 


Answering emails at 1am isn’t OK. Don’t do it.

Train your stakeholders

If Charlie from accounting sends you a task at 5pm on a Friday, in most cases it’s OK to leave it until Monday. He’ll soon learn that, unless there’s an emergency, you won’t work late.

‘Urgent’ and ‘emergency’ are relative terms

Although people will constantly say that their work is ‘urgent’, more often than not, it isn’t. I fell for this line waaaay too many times. Be sure to stress test the reason behind the request. Ask why the matter is urgent, then you decide if the reason is justified.

Stop scrolling out of habit

In France, labor laws now give employees the right to disconnect from email as soon as they head home. So, do as the French do and say bonsoir to your work phone and put it in your undies drawer when you get home. This will remove the temptation to constantly refresh your inbox. Don’t retrieve it until you walk out the door the next morning. Oui oui!.

Aiming for perfection is the fastest way to burnout

This quote pretty much applies to everyone:

“I do not have ducks. I do not have a row. I have squirrels and they are at a rave.”

As a recovering workaholic, I recommend embracing your own squirrels.

Are you fast approaching burnout? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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