9 Tips to help you cope at work during a breakup.

Uncategorized Aug 17, 2020

Divorce is the one of the most stressful things you can go through in your life, second only to the death of a loved one. It’s not surprising that it affects your work. When I was going through my divorce I couldn’t concentrate or function properly and my motivation was at an all-time low. I didn’t have the energy to give to work. It was as much as I could do to just get through the day.

 

Because I felt so ashamed, I didn’t want to tell anyone about my divorce. And telling people would make it real - which I didn’t want to accept. I felt a failure and thought that people would be judging me and wondering what was wrong with me. In reality that was what I was thinking about myself.

 

I told those I had to – my boss and direct reports and close friends who were all understanding. But none of them had been through a divorce though which made me feel more isolated. None of them truly understood what I was going through and I’m sure they didn’t really know what to say to me.

 

After a few months I decided that I couldn’t continue in my role as I didn’t have the emotional capacity to give to it. I decided to step down and take some time away from work as I needed some space to try and recover without the added pressure of work. This was a massive decision for me - I had a very senior role with a large team to manage and I’d worked REALLY hard to get to that position.

 

When I returned to work, I took a project-based role where I didn’t have a team to manage. I was still really tearful for a LONG time and I know I wasn’t operating anywhere near my capability. Although I still did well eventually in my new role, I know that stepping down from my previous role definitely affected my career. I felt I’d lost some of my credibility and visibility in the business which I had to try and build back up.

 

There’s no doubt your productivity plummets when you’re going through a breakup or divorce and the business is impacted hugely. There’s a direct correlation between relationship turmoil and workplace productivity.

 

According to one report, divorce lowers the productivity of the employee going through it by an estimated 40 percent, and one-year post-divorce, productivity is down an additional 20 percent, with the co-workers losing 2 percent and the manager losing 1 percent.

 

In the UK, the Centre for Social Justice estimated $56.99bn in annual costs to the government, due to family breakdowns.

 

Here are 9 tips for how cope with divorce or breakup at work:

 

  1. Tell your boss – It’s essential to explain your situation to your boss so they can be more understanding and give you some flexibility - especially if you need time off for solicitor meetings or counselling. Be respectful though and don’t exploit the situation. I really struggled to get into work on time due to my insomnia – I literally couldn’t get up in the morning. I explained what was going on to my boss who was really understanding. I always made sure I worked later though or took work home to make up my hours.

 

  1. Tell your peers and direct reports – It really helps if they understand your situation and can be there to support you. You don’t need to explain to everyone you speak to at work. I found it easier to keep it private, although I’m sure word soon got around. I didn’t want to be going over my story all the time at work as I felt it wasn’t professional. Reliving your story also reconnects you to all the negative emotions as your brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s happening now and what’s remembered. I knew if I started talking about it, I’d end up in tears which I really didn’t want to happen.

 

  1. Make sure you have a strong support network outside of work - Have a few close friends that you can confide in who are objective, don’t have an opinion on everything and listen to you without judgement. Spend time with friends who are good fun to be with.

 

  1. Restrain from using work as a way of avoiding your emotions – It can be tempting to work really long hours to avoid facing up to your emotions and accepting what’s happened. Other avoidance tactics can include partying hard or drinking excessively. None of these will help your performance at work or help you emotionally in the long term.

 

  1. Imagine putting your emotions in a box - and closing the lid on it until you finish work for the day. Although it’s harmful in the long term for us to avoid our emotions, locking them away in the short term can enable us to function better in everyday life – for example when we have to work. Work can be a welcome distraction to your home life and doing this will help you concentrate on work and improve your performance.

 

  1. Maintain boundaries between your work and personal life – Use a separate email account to communicate with your solicitor and your ex so you can take control and decide when to read them. That way you don’t have any nasty surprises at work which can distract you and send you into a downward spiral. If you do need to have a conversation with them, try and arrange it for outside of office hours.

 

  1. Exercise – This was such a life saver for me! I know that often it’s the last thing you feel like doing at this time, but it can have such a massive effect on how you feel and increase your mood. Even if you only get outside for a walk at lunch time this can really help. See if there’s an exercise class you could do before or after work with a friend or even during lunch time. Try and do something every day.

 

  1. Time out – If it all feels like it’s getting too much – take some time away from your desk. Maybe go for a walk outside or go and get a coffee.

 

  1. Divorce coach – working with a divorce coach, amongst other things, can really help you to manage all the negative emotions that you’ll be experiencing. You work together to practice tools and techniques which you can use every day to help you cope with work.

 

These tips are still relevant even if you’re working from work at the moment and trying to remain productive and professional during your breakup.

 

Going through a breakup or divorce will inevitably have an impact on your work but there are things you can do to try and minimise the effect. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling like you’re underperforming at work. It’s a really stressful time so you need to give yourself a break. Be honest with your boss and colleagues. See if there’s anything you can do in the short term to relieve some of the pressure.

 

Remember this time will pass.

 

If you’re struggling at work due to your breakup, and would like some additional support, you can book a free 15-minute discovery call with me to see how I can help you. Send me an email at sarah@sarah-woodward.com and I'll get back to you.

 

Also, if you haven’t already done so you can download my free guide here: 10 Tips to help you get over your breakup: www.sarah-woodward.com/10Tips

 

 

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