always_onBy Casey Hollins, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative

The sound of your smart phone dings at 2:03 a.m., jolting you from a deep sleep. If you’re a co-op communicator, you know it can only be one of two things – a personal emergency or a co-op emergency. As you slide your finger across the screen to read the message, you discover it’s the latter. The racing of your heart slows a little bit as you wipe the sleep from your eyes and struggle to become fully awake and alert. You have a job to do, and in today’s world, the expectation is for you to be “always on.”

Nowadays, like the 2015 Hyundai Tuscan commercial says, “Busy – it’s worn like a badge.” But, with being busy also comes sacrifices that often include lack of sleep, various health issues, depression, stress and more.

A 2015 working paper from Harvard and Stanford Business Schools takes a look at 10 common job stressors. The paper cites several problematic conditions that can arise from an unusual or erratic schedule:

  • Those who worked long hours reported more cases of hypertension, for instance.
  • There have also been correlations between occupational injuries and working longer hours during the preceding week. In fact, a 2005 study noted that those who reported high levels of feeling overworked were 20 percent more likely to say that they had made many mistakes on the job, which could be especially problematic for those with physically demanding or dangerous positions.
  • Long work hours were also associated with worse health generally, and bad health decisions—like smoking.

Being a good communicator doesn’t have to cost you your health. You can be a good co-op communicator and not work around the clock, every day of the year. Follow these tips to help manage your workload and enjoy your life a little more.

  1. It may be unheard of – but try – even if it’s just once, to arrive to work on time and then at the end of the day leave on time. Set a timer or an alarm for the time of day you should leave and leave at that time
  2. Eliminate distractions like emails, text messages or social media notifications. Being distracted while at work can often make completing tasks during the day difficult. Set specific times during the day to check and respond to email and text messages. Unless you are responsible for your co-op’s social media communications, set a specific time throughout the day to check anything on social media.
  3. Make a realistic to-do list and check off items as they are completed. Trying to accomplish more than you realistically can in one day often leads to unnecessary stress.
  4. Try to write your to-do list for the day before you leave the office the day prior. It’s easy to waste a bunch of time getting organized in the morning. Write down the three things you have to do, come in and get to work on those three things.
  5. Avoid taking work home and staying up long hours to get work done. Sleep is essential to cognitive abilities. Make sure you are allowing your body and mind the time it needs to take a break and rest.
  6. If you are using social media for business, schedule your posts! The posts will be made on your social media networks and you can focus on other things instead of allowing social media to control your schedule.
  7. Create a communication plan that you follow throughout each year. This will help you avoid trying to figure out what you will communicate in your monthly newsletter any given month. Taking the time to plan ahead can help ensure successful communications for your co-op.
  8. At the end of the day, unwind with something personally uplifting and fulfilling. Perhaps playing with your kids will do the trick. Maybe it’s making a delicious meal. Or maybe it’s exercising. Whatever it is for you, do it.