By Danie Esterhuizen, ECA(SA) First Vice-President

Danie Esterhuizen, ECA(SA) First Vice-President.

We are on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution where the advances in technology enable constant connection. The boundaries between personal and professional life are not that clear anymore, but have you stopped to consider the consequences of a fast-paced ‘always available’ lifestyle? Do you make time to disconnect?

I asked our members this question when I attended some of the regional executive committee meetings recently and I was surprised when everyone said “No! Our clients demand that we are always available; our survival depends upon it!”

It appears that the ‘new normal’ in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has driven many electrical contractors to push themselves continuously, fearing that anything less will result in failure and loss of income.

 It has been such a huge problem worldwide that the World Health Organization adopted a new draft global plan of action on workers’ health at the seventh meeting of the WHO Collaborating Centres in Occupational Health at Stresa, Italy, in 2006.

They conference specifically noted that “further improvement of the health of workers requires a holistic approach, combining occupational health and safety with disease prevention, health promotion and tackling social determinants of health and reaching out to workers families and communities”.

They believe that the key to a healthy workplace depends on the introduction of effective work-life balance interventions and specific targeted programs to improve this balance. This is a theme running through many articles and publications on healthy workplaces, which indicates that a proper work-life balance can prevent burnout, improve productivity and contribute to your overall health and wellbeing.

But what are the symptoms? And have you considered the cost of being always available?

Chronic stress is the number one health issue in the workplace and it can directly be linked to being ‘always available’. This can lead to physical consequences such as hypertension, digestive troubles, diabetes, heart problems and burnout.

Chronic stress can also negatively impact mental health because it is linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia. But how do you achieve the balance between work, family and life in general?

The ECA(SA) National Director, Mark Mfikoe, reminded me about Abraham Lincoln who was regarded as one of the most important presidents in American history. He was well known for his energy and productivity as a skilled wood cutter. Lincoln’s productivity secret was to use sharper tools to get the job done more efficiently. His famous quote was: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” 

This is just as important today as it was way back then but sharpening your axe might mean something different today. It might refer to tools such as better planning of your day to utilise available time effectively, or to say ‘no’ to requests that do not further your goals.

But you have to take this one step further. As an employer in the electrical industry, you have to take control of your life and schedule time where you can reconnect with your family and friends, find your focus and revitalise your energy. Invest in your health and your future; and always remember that you have the right to disconnect!

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