Addressing Your Second Shift: The Pull to Return to Work at Home
Balancing work and home life are among the main struggles I see people negotiate within their everyday life. The value of hard work and success are central to our culture and the resulting burnout often brings people into my office suffering from a host of emotional and physical issues. The impact of chronic stress is substantial, with everyone having a different point of tolerance before they start suffering emotional and physical consequences.
Issues with work complicate as we age. The years of hard work individuals put in turn into more responsibilities within the workplace, higher stakes in their decision making, and more hours required to complete their tasks. This is typically coupled with starting and raising a family, bringing the stress levels higher as our vitality starts to decline. Being present with family after working a stressful day or week is challenging and it is difficult to find a balance between them.
People are regularly pulled back towards work tasks in the evening and night through feeling overwhelmed with the amount of emails they are responsible for, deadlines that need to be met, and others relying on them to get the job done. Challenging this process can be tricky, and I would never push someone to be impractical with changes or leave their job due to their requirements. I often encourage patients to ask themselves about the benefits and drawbacks of their use of time. Is the regular sacrifice of possible family time necessary to complete your job? What are the consequences of the time that you spend working from home after you work? How did this routine begin? Is this leading towards burnout? Are you actually able to get a lot of work done during this time?
The issue often lies in whether you are choosing to spend your time that way, or if you feel obligated to complete your second shift. We can often slip into obligations without feeling that we have a choice in the matter. This can become a breeding ground for resentment and stress that can culminate in depression, anxiety, burnout, and physiological issues. Work can leave people feeling trapped in their life with no viable alternatives as their financial requirements increase.
Consequences for returning to work in the evening can bring a number of issues. Not having distance from our responsibilities can create continued exposure to stress. We are pulled away from quality time with loved ones. We have continued light exposure that can disrupt our sleeping quality and patterns. And we have lost time that may have been spent on self-care routines.
If this article is speaking to you there are many options to consider. Looking at how you spend your time and how you work in the most optimum manner are important first steps in creating change. It can be challenging to set boundaries in the workplace, have difficult conversations with yourself to assess long term sustainability, and put forth consistent effort to create change when you are already exhausted. Deeper issues can be teased out through this process, such as using work as a distraction from a dysfunctional home life, along with using your work life as a primary sense of worthiness in yourself. Please reach out if these themes resonate with you. Our work lives make up a large portion of ourselves and having a good relationship with it can substantially improve your quality of life.