How to Take a Step Back from Work

July 9, 2020
A healthy leader is one that can prioritize, take a step back, and focus on their personal life when necessary.

Does this scenario sound familiar? 

It’s a typical work day. You repair vehicles on schedule and complete tasks like following up with customers. Then, when 5 p.m. hits, you’re ready to head home for the evening. When you reach your front door and you’re turning the key, your cellphone chimes. It’s work that’s calling. 

 Now, imagine this pattern stays on repeat for weeks, months and years. Since work is routine, you might not notice how your body does go into a fight-or-flight mode. As a response to acute stress, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated and your entire body is ready to take action to the stress and either act or shut down.

Too much work stress is simply not healthy for anybody.

 Often, leaders are so focused on output or caught in a pattern of overworking that it makes it hard for them to be a role model for the people they’re leading, says Joe Robinson, work-life balance speaker, trainer and author for Optimal Performance Strategies. 

When a team starts following in the leader’s footsteps of overworking, it can lead to burnout and employees quitting, he says. 

Michael Bradshaw is one example of a collision repair shop owner that has perfected the art of taking a step back as a leader. He’s still involved with his body shop as the president of K&M Collision in Hickory, N.C., but he also puts effort into separating his passions outside of work and his responsibilities at work.

For example, Bradshaw is owner of the collision repair shop by day and, in his free time, is a frequent speaker at events like SEMA and other auto trade industry events. 

“Once you create a culture that’s focused on balance and that’s instilled throughout your organization,” Bradshaw says, “then you, as a leader, can be gone and know that cars are being repaired the right way.”

Here are the top five tips to taking a step back as a leader, according to Bradshaw and Robinson.

As told to Melissa Steinken

Tip One: Put in place open lines of communication.

Your team needs to know when and how they can contact you if you’re away from the business. While you, as a leader, need to be available, you need to make sure that you are transparent about when you can and cannot answer calls after work. 

While being ready to step in if the team needs you, try to also limit yourself on the number of times you actually check your phone. One way of limiting your screen time after work is to check your phone at designated hours of the day or put a process in place that you’ll only check your phone four times per day.

Tip Two: Prioritize note-taking in your schedule.

It will be easier to shut off your brain from work when you’re not there, if you keep detailed notes on what you’d like to accomplish throughout the week.

At the beginning of every day, make a list of three to five items, you’d like to accomplish for the day. At the end of the day, take a look at the list, cross out what you did get to and make a note in your calendar for the next day about the items you missed. This process will help you worry less that you’re missing tasks you need to complete after the work day is done.

Tip Three: Plan for frequent breaks from work.

While at work, make sure to provide good morale for the team. Positive morale goes hand-in-hand towards ultimately instilling a positive, balanced work environment. 

To help encourage work-life balance while at the body shop, provide your team with breaks from work. Give them a 15-minute break in the morning and another 15-minute break in the afternoon. Encourage the team to use the vacation time they have available in order to recharge and relax.

Tip Four: Give your full attention to one task at a time.

Focus on what is going to allow you to have more time to step away from work at the end of the day. Maybe this means that if you have to help out for a work-related issue while at home, you offer a distraction to your children so that you can get work done for a half hour or so.

Worrying about tasks that haven’t been done or problems that could be completed the next day is not accomplishing anything. Give one item your 100 percent, undivided attention and then follow tip two to accomplish other tasks later.

Tip Five: Delegate work if it’s reasonable.

If you have a trusted team in place, you’re not alone as a leader. If you need to step away from the job, you can choose to pass off a task to another team member.

Use your personal judgment on whether another employee can handle the situation. Often, employees might think they need to call you to keep you up-to-date and don’t really need your extended input when you’re not at the body shop.

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