Managing Your Divorce at Work: Tools to Stay Focused and Productive
Divorce can be a rather stressful event, and many can struggle to maintain their daily routines, family schedules, and work commitments while undergoing this significant life transition. Given the emotional turmoil, anxiety, financial stress, home changes, custody issues, loss and grief that frequently accompany divorce, divorcing individuals are typically impacted both at work and at home. Given the potential consequences of divorce and that the rate of divorce is remarkably high (40-50%), it is surprising that most work institutions do not provide overt support for divorcing employees, especially when managing your divorce at work can make the difference between success and failure for so many professionals.
Manage Your Psyche
It’s not always unclear how most adults cope with divorce at work, and what support systems they use at work to stay focused and productive. If organizations provide counseling services, it would make sense to seek support from available professionals. However, some employees may be rather reluctant to do so, as they may worry about confidentiality and boundaries, and access to files by bosses and colleagues. Of course, there are many professionals who have the expertise to provide guidance and support outside the work environment. Unfortunately, many may not be able to take advantage of this resource because of work schedules, family demands, and financial constraints. Hence, this may lead to a number of divorcing individuals without tools and support systems to foster resilience and coping within the work environment.
Under these circumstances, it would be important for us and for work institutions to identify tools that could best target anxiety, irritability, attention, motivation, and fatigue that sometimes accompany divorce to disrupt productivity, timeliness, and task completion at work.
A simple first step in this process is to create a list of pleasurable, endorphin-releasing activities and stimulation that are acceptable in the work environment, and could serve as buffers to reduce stress and anxiety. Some excellent sources include:
- Music (soft, classical, meditative, etc.).
- Lighting (ask yourself what lighting works best for you – sun lamp, dim lighting, etc. and bring in the lighting that is healing for you).
- Short Meditations a few times a day (there are many online CDs and phrases that you can browse to select the ones that are a good match for your needs).
- Short Walks.
- Water Breaks.
- High Protein/ High Energy Organic Snacks.
- Favorite Organic Lunches.
- Diffusers for Aroma Therapy/Scented Oils.
- Auto Reminders on your computer, phone, and watch that tell you to “take a short break”, to “breathe”, to “relax”. You can plug in any words, statements, or images that are powerful for you and evoke self-awareness and relaxation.
- Jokes/Short Conversations with colleagues.
- Lunch Breaks outside the building for fresh air and alternate stimulation.
The above is a list that you can review to select items that will most benefit you; you can adapt each item to make it most pleasurable and effective for you. The more you incorporate these activities and tools into your daily work environment, the more likely you will experience relief – which in turn, will enhance your productivity and focus.
Manage Your Health
Sleep is critical. Without regular and sufficient sleep, it is very hard to boost motivation and fatigue, both of which can have a huge impact on work performance. If you are struggling with sleep, it is essential that you seek appropriate remedies. There are many non-prescription substances available that induce sleep, including warm milk, sleepy time tea, melatonin, valerian root, aroma bath salts and candles, etc. It is important that you first check with your physician before you ingest any substances, and if these don’t work, help yourself by turning to your physician for medication recommendations. Again, poor sleep and lack of sleep can be hugely disruptive to one’s physical and psychological system, and is a vital piece of self-care.
Individuals undergoing major changes and stressors frequently report loss of attention, distractibility, and difficulty focusing. It is not unusual for stress to hamper timeliness and completion of tasks, or for tasks to take longer than usual. Hence, it is important for divorcing individuals to address attention and focus during work hours to maintain productivity. It can be very helpful to make a daily hierarchical list of tasks that must be completed that day. You can also put in time slots for when each task is to be completed that day – realistic time slots. Perhaps you can assign yourself an extra 15 minutes for each task to accommodate for potential distractibility and fatigue. Creating a structured, hierarchical, daily system to follow helps with focus, staying on track, task completion, and timeliness. A bonus to this system is to reward yourself with something small (like a water break, a stretch, a short meditation, a snack) upon completion of each task. This inherently reinforces your structured system, your mood enhancers, your motivation, and your attention.
Excellent nutrition and frequent exercise are well-established factors that reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and enhance mood, motivation, and attention. As institutions become more mindful of how diet and exercise have a direct link to productivity, motivation, and focus, it is my hope that more work institutes support all their employees by facilitating healthy, non-processed, low fat, low carbohydrate, and low sugar nutrition via vending machines and fresh food cafeterias. Providing several water stations for employees also fosters good health and energy, as drinking eight glasses of water a day is well known to enhance the body’s functioning. Although most work facilities do not provide exercise stations or gyms, employees should be encouraged to take walks during lunch breaks to re-energize and increase productivity. If you are undergoing a divorce and are feeling drained, stressed, and unfocused, it would be even more important for you to incorporate healthy nutrition, water, and exercise in your daily work routine. Doing so is a simple but highly effective means of self-care that will continue to increase your focus, attention, motivation, productivity, coping, and well being at work and at home.
In sum, divorce can be a stressful life changing transition that can have significant debilitating effects on one’s emotional and cognitive functioning, which in turn, could impact productivity at work. Given the high rate of divorce in the U.S., several employees are likely to be experiencing a divorce at any given time. It is important for institutions to recognize divorce as a common stressor that can hamper attention, focus, and motivation, and hence work productivity. The more we are able as a community to bring this to our awareness, and can create support systems at work to facilitate coping and resilience for divorcing employees, and the more each of us engages in the above pointers, the more likely we are to remain focused and productive in our work environments.