Jan Wellmann, CEO at WaveLife Technologies, is no stranger to the demands of modern work culture. As an entrepreneur, Wellmann has a long history turning budding concepts into burgeoning businesses. In 2012, he launched HoneyColony Inc., a health marketplace and wellness hub designed to empower individual health transformation. Now, he’s focused on using advanced frequency therapy devices to measure and address the root causes of chronic complications that may occur as a result of stress.
“Having launched several startups and worked alongside other entrepreneurs, I understand the need to shift lifestyle habits and promote a healthy work-life balance,” says Wellmann. “Although everyday stress can, and does, affect aspects of our lives and long-term health, many people don’t consider it a serious issue. Work stress was part of the impetus for forming WaveLife, introspectively realizing how stress was affecting my well-being and now I work to help others in the same situation.”
In a consumer-focused business landscape, finding a happy medium between our “always on” office life and the baseline of our everyday lives has become increasingly complex. The line between work and personal life is muddled, and this is illustrated in numerous studies and surveys conducted over the past few years.
Stress on the Body
There’s no doubt that stress has significant impacts on bodily health. Long-term stress weakens your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to viruses and infections; causes your liver to reduce extra glucose, putting your body at a higher risk for diabetes; and increases the production of stomach acid, resulting in heartburn and other potentially serious issues.
“The most common forms of physical pain are caused by tissue damage from injury, stress or decay, causing nerve fibers to signal the brain with a pain sensation,” says Wellmann, whose company WaveLife Technologies developed the Energy cell to address crucial pain points. “Pain alleviation can restore health and lower stress levels, but it’s important for hard-working individuals to address the root cause, too.”
Today, business owners and employees alike are searching for new ways to “disconnect.” They’re seeking alternative health solutions that offer a holistic and preventative approach to combating modern workplace stress. But in order to tackle the long-term effects of stress, it’s important to start in the place where we spend most of our time: work.
Side Effects of Work-Life Imbalance
Working too much and/or working under stressful conditions results in several negative side effects. These symptoms impact us long after we’ve logged off. According to a survey from Harvard Business Review, 94% of service professionals work more than 50 hours per week. The average American worker puts in 47 hours per week.
And according to RescueTime data, 40% of service professionals are still using their laptops after 10pm. But those long hours backfire and sleep becomes impaired. Depression and stress weave their way in between the hours and minutes, and collaboration and productivity levels suffer.
Less sleep and high stress levels quickly concocts a recipe for burnout. Because most workers are unable to maintain productivity levels in the office, they bring work home during the evening and weekends. One survey found that one-third of salaried workers continue work on the weekends, and other data discovered that more than one-quarter of office work is brought home.
“Burnout does more than make you tired,” says Wellmann. “It’s also linked to low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness. Stronger stress response enlarges the amygdala and thins out the prefrontal cortex—the area in the front of your brain responsible for cognitive functioning.”
Modern work culture expects employees to juggle many hats at once. On any given day, an office employee could be balancing multiple projects and tasks simultaneously. And at any given moment, you’re checking your phone, having a side conversation with a coworker, or replying to an email.
Because of this, our time is often spent jumping from task to task and application to application. This constant switch-and-bait affects our ability to hone in on a singular mission, which often requires concentration and uninterrupted time dedication. But when the majority of office workers never exceed 30 minutes of focused time per day, inefficiencies creep in.
Neuroscientists have found that multitasking drains the brain’s energy reserves. From a scientific standpoint, switching from one task to another uses up oxygenated glucose in the brain, chipping away at the fuel needed to resume concentration.
“That switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing,” said Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University.
Heavy multitaskers fare worse. Chronic multitasking leads to semi-permanent concentration consequences. Stanford University researcher Clifford Nass discovered that heavy multitaskers had difficulty sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details—even when they weren’t actively multitasking.
At the end of the day, too much multitasking has a domino effect on our day to day lives; because we’re unable to complete uninterrupted tasks within working hours, we spend more time in the office and are more likely to bring work home.
Our desire to be constantly connected directly correlates to our inability to remain focused during the average workday. The average software developer, for example, spends 21% of their day communicating, while the product manager or executive spends 37% of their day communicating. While communication is integral to any business, burnout creep happens when communication isn’t properly managed.
According to one survey, the average knowledge worker (a person whose’ job involves handling information) checked their email or company communication every six minutes. Furthermore, 35.5% checked every six minutes.
Interestingly enough, it’s the rise in toxic work-life balances that pushes us to be more connected. In a twist of irony, workplace stress and overload push people to social media, and lengthy amounts of time spent on social media further compounds stress.
Take one look at the harrowing social media statistics and it’s clear to see that these applications create a major distraction in the workplace. On any given day, you turn to your phone for work communication, inter-office messaging, and updates. At the same time, your mobile device is a product of personal use.
As a result, there is rarely a resting place between you and your electronic devices. And it’s no secret that staring at screens too long strains your eyes. A Nielsen study found that the average person spends 10 hours and 39 minutes looking at screens, and companies like Apple have attempted to alleviate the symptoms by offering Dark Mode features that relieve stress on our retinas.
Finding Work-Life Balance
The key to combating a stressful work-life balance is creating boundaries. Inefficiencies breed distraction and distraction breeds low productivity. Having the right tools, methodologies, awareness, and boundaries can all combat an imbalanced work-life setup.
“At WaveLife, we promote tools and tactics that address key stressors—particularly in the workplace—before they take a serious turn on your health,” says Wellmann. “For instance, the WaveLife Energy Cell is a non-invasive wearable tech that helps relieve inflammation, improve regeneration and cell metabolism, so that the body can heal itself faster.”
Knowledge workers should also utilize tools that help them improve efficiency throughout the workday and lower stress. Business owners can help their organizations by promoting healthy communication within the workplace and limiting distractions. For example, more companies are encouraging “no email” hours. By permitting your staff to not answer emails within certain time brackets (and after work hours), they no longer feel the need to check their inbox while working on tasks.
Emphasizing stronger workplace culture can also relieve stress. Offer meditation or yoga classes, create a remote work program that gives your team more autonomy (studies have shown that employees are actually more productive when they work remotely).
And lastly, make it your mission to show appreciation to your team. Part of workplace stress comes from working too hard, often with no reward or recognition. Simple gestures that show your appreciation can do wonders for productivity, morale, and culture.
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