UAE jobs: Why it is important to 'switch off' after work

Manage time, learn to prioritise, disconnect: Experts share tips to boost work-life balance

by

Lamya Tawfik

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Published: Tue 17 Jan 2023, 7:32 PM

Last updated: Wed 18 Jan 2023, 11:07 AM

Tom (not his real name) is suffering from stress due to a lack of work-life balance. He seeks help and realises that time management is an important tool. His therapist encourages him to map out his day on an excel sheet and to slot in “switch-off” time. Tom’s stress levels are now noticeably reduced.

Tom is a client of Aditi Nath, Mental Health Practitioner & Cognitive Training Director at The Brain Workshop, one of the mental health specialists Khaleej Times spoke to following the release of duke+mir’s 2023 Life and Technology Report on Tuesday.


The report showed that since 2020, 70% of people in the UAE have found it harder to separate work and personal life and that remote technologies have distorted work-life balance.

The main problem with work-life balance, according to Aditi, is that many people don’t really understand what it means. Juggling work, a busy social life and extracurricular activities are not work-life balance. “If you never switch off from anything that looks like work, then you don’t have a work-life balance. You need complete ‘nothing’ time when you are relaxed and your cortisol levels are non-existent,” she said.


Even things like watching a new movie could be considered against de-stressing according to Aditi who says, some downtime with a cup of tea away from all screens and devices, three times a week is ideal. “If you think you have achieved work-life balance, ask yourself how you feel when you wake up in the morning. Are you fresh? Or tired and drowsy and wanting to go back to bed?” she asks.

In additional to hormonal problems and inflammation, the brain’s optimal functionality is affected by stress, she said. “You will not be able to think of new ideas, pick up a new activity, complete a task. There will be a lot of back log in your life and you will be disorganized. Your working memory is also going to be affected because you’re taking in too much information,” she said.

Dr. Engy Shahbandar, psychiatrist and founder of Integrakare said that one must think about energy as a bucket that is not replenished during the day so it must be used wisely. “If you don’t use it wisely then it gets depleted, and you will be stressed. Stress is not abstract it’s a physiological change in your body,” she said, adding that a sustained level of stress hormones will have detrimental effects on the health such as increased sugar level (diabetes), cardiovascular problems and a weakened immune system making people more prone to illnesses.

In order to achieve work-life balance one must have self-awareness and learn how to disconnect. “Work is stressful by nature – you have deadlines and responsibilities. It is stressful even if it is a healthy work environment. It cannot take away from other things that give you balance. From things that make you happy. The things that you need to have mental clarity. From things that give you emotional satisfaction,” she explained.

Learning to prioritise and observing one’s own internal conversation is important. “Say to yourself: I will not allow myself to get consumed with work and my personal life to affect work. It’s a decision you make that will take time,” she said adding that an erroneous belief that needs to be changed is that if you don’t give work 100% you will not be successful.

Speaking about the role of companies in instilling a culture that encourages work-life balance, Dr. Farah Ahmed, founder of Noor Corporate Health said that work-life balance is the relationship people have between work and all aspects of their lives. “It’s a synergistic relationship not a balance but a synergy where you are able to fulfill all aspects of your wellbeing at work or outside of work,” she said.

She stressed that it is a shared responsibility that can’t be entirely the responsibility of the individual. “It’s a split responsibility because the workplace is a community where people spend most of their waking hours and energy in an environment. It needs to be conducive enough to help people establish good health and good wellbeing,” she explained.

By working with companies to identify their values and vision for their employees and by assessing employee data, Farah and her team help equip companies with the right tools to encourage a culture of work-life balance that goes beyond awareness sessions. “Companies need to assess or create a vision that starts form the top and trickles all the way down. They need to create a culture that supports their initiatives which is based on measurement,” she said.

According to Mandeep Jassal, Behavioural Therapist, Priory Wellbeing Centre, here are a few tips to help manage stress:

  • Using guided meditation apps
  • Deep breathing/grounding exercises
  • Turn your bedroom into a ‘sanctuary’
  • Improve your diet
  • Exercise on a regular basis
  • Ensure designated ‘work and relaxation zones’.

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