When are you disconnecting from work? At 5 p.m.? Or 7 p.m.? Maybe even 9 p.m.? Whatever you answered, I bet it’s a big fat lie. I mean, when are you really disconnected? If ever?
In today’s “always-on” culture, it’s hard to switch off, especially if you work from home. Even when you think you’re not connected, your mind is probably full of work-related thoughts. You might even think it’s normal. And that’s the problem. Society has made you believe that it is. Well, it isn’t.
Take some time to reflect: do you work to live or live to work?
Work is a big part of life but your time off work is more important. Learn to set boundaries and claim back YOUR time. We’ll show you how.
3 tips on disconnecting from work:
WFH Tip 1: A closing ritual
When the closing bell rings, the last shipment is sent or the final sale call is made, it’s time to disconnect from work. Ok, I’m not naive, I know you probably have some more work to do. But consider this: why are you working longer than you’re paid for? Is it because you genuinely want to work or because you want to show off your long working hours? Does it really improve your performance or are you just building a reputation of “hard-working employee”?
Let’s start again. The closing bell rings, the market closes and you get ready to disconnect. You turn off your computer, stow away your files and clean your desk. Just before you go, you do one more thing. You take a pencil and a piece of paper. You’re going to write down your to-dos for the next day. (You can use an app for this as well.) Just make sure to do it before you leave your workspace.
When you come back the next morning, your desk is free of distractions. There’s nothing laying about. The only thing that immediately catches your eye is the to-do list you left the night before.
As you leave your office or working space, your closing ritual ends, and you start your transition ritual. It’s key to leave the room you were in — better even if you can leave the house for a while. Allow your mind to disconnect physically from your working environment for a while. Now, spend a couple of minutes with yourself. Do something you love while you’re disconnecting from work. Make a rich-flavoured cup of coffee or tea, do some relaxing yoga, or take the dog for a walk
Set up a closing and transition ritual to mentally and physically disconnect from work and work stress.
WFH Tip 2: Set boundaries and expectations
When you’ve completed your transition ritual, work is no longer your number one priority. Now, you and your family are. Spend time with your loved ones and work on your personal interests and goals.
Create boundaries for yourself and others
Your first job is to make yourself unavailable. Log out of your email and other work accounts. Create more friction so that you’ll be less likely to turn to work after hours. You really don’t need to reply to that email asap, trust me. Emails are not urgent. Calls are. Did you know, by the way, that according to the French constitution, employees have the right to disconnect from work after office hours? Other countries are working on similar laws as well.
If possible, delete the email app on your phone. That’s the best possible friction you can create. If that doesn’t work or you just prefer to check email on your phone, leave it, but switch off push notifications or turn on “do not disturb”. Keep notifications turned off at all times, even during work. Check your email at fixed times only to avoid distractions during the rest of the day.
Set the right expectations while working from home
Do you feel like your managers expect too much of you? We’ve all been there. It often starts with an email or message late at night. You reply once and, boom, that’s the new normal. Now, you’re always expected to be available. To avoid this, it’s important to set the right expectations from the start. Don’t answer late-night calls or reply to emails at 2 a.m. because you want to make a good impression. If you feel bad about ignoring your manager or client, send a short email along the following lines: ‘Well received, will review tomorrow.’
If you’re in a managerial role or if people need your help to get things done, set office hours. Don’t let people interrupt your flow whenever a problem pops up. Give them a fixed couple hours of your time per week but make sure it’s not during your most productive hours. Those hours are for solving your problems, not for helping other people solve theirs.
Set boundaries and create the right expectations for your colleagues.
WFH Tip 3: Get more “alone time”
What’s your most important relationship? It’s the one between you and your mind. Cherish it.
Plan some time by yourself every day, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes. Limit all external input. Avoid new information and distractions. This means no TV, no Netflix, no phone. Social media is definitely not allowed and even books should be left on the shelf. Just give yourself some time to really disconnect and reflect.
Meditation or mindfulness practises are perhaps the most effective tools to disconnect. But they don’t work for everyone. Going for a walk or run are good alternatives. So is writing in a gratitude or reflection journal. Whatever you do, just avoid external input. Quieten your mind and listen to your soul without the distractions caused by music, TV or podcasts.
Planning this downtime gives your brain room to process emotions and figure out lingering thoughts and ongoing problems. This happens because, when idle, your brain starts making new connections. And when you least expect it, you’ll find a solution to the problems that seemed unsolvable. Why do you think some of the best ideas arise in the shower?
Allow your mind some rest so it can process emotions and thoughts.
Don’t be afraid to disconnect from work
Especially in times like these, when more people are working from home, these ways to disconnect will help to restore your work-life balance.
Remember to set the correct boundaries and expectations at work. End your workday with a unique closing routine to let your mind know it’s time for a different focus. And finally, give your mind some rest to catch up with all the events and emotions from the last 24 hours.
If you think time is an issue, don’t be afraid. Truly disconnecting from work actually makes you more productive. Take time to recharge and fuel your focus. We’ve got you covered.
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Sources and further reading about disconnecting from work while working from home
- Ishak, Raven. Bustle — https://www.bustle.com/articles/178433-13-ways-to-detach-from-work-after-office-hours
- MacKay, Jory. RescueTime blog — https://blog.rescuetime.com/disconnect-from-work/
- Wilding, Melody. Forbes — https://www.forbes.com/sites/melodywilding/2020/06/22/how-to-disconnect-from-work-and-enjoy-your-downtime-without-feeling-guilty/#19196c42d01c