Tips on how to “switch off” from work

Tom Eversley

With flexible work arrangements, the boundaries between home and work become blurred. So too, do the boundaries around stress. Stress can seep into your home life when downtime is important. Here are some tips to better manage this.

Establish work boundaries 
Make decisions about where and when you will work. Limit your work activity to those times and places. This is particularly important if you work from home. Determine where you will work and don’t allow work to infiltrate zones for relaxing and downtime eg the couch in the family room, or bed.

When the work day is over, you can stand up and step away from your work station or close the door on your home office as a symbol that the work day is done. Keeping a track of work time is equally important. It is easy to let work take up more time that it should, when working from home without the need to stop work for the commute home.

Manage your mobile devices
Work mobiles/tablets are easy to have on hand all the time and it takes no time to quickly check email. The snag comes when the quick check becomes all too frequent and “pulls you” into always being on the device. To avoid this, keep work and personal devices separate. Put the work device(s) aside or turned off at night and on weekends. If you do need to check it, keep it brief and for specific urgent/important issues only.

Develop an end of work day habit
At the end of the work day, allow a few minutes to reflect. Check off your accomplishments and put any incomplete tasks on the “to do” list for the next day.  This routine can allow you to mentally “close the door” on the work day, leaving things organised for the following one. In your own mind, you have closed the loop on the day, containing the thoughts about it. Leaving things hanging, is like leaving the loop open and can lead to thinking about unresolved work issues, at home or worse – during your sleep.

Create a landmark or space to separate work from home
When leaving work, ideas and recollections of the events of the day often circulate in your head. Arriving home with these things on your mind is not always good for those at home. There are a number of things you can do to make the shift in your mindset.

One is to establish a landmark on the way home, that can serve as a reminder to change your thinking. There me be transition zone – between two landmarks – within which you transition your mindset into one suitable for home. Some people create a space at home, where they reset themselves from work to home persona.

Do you have your own techniques for this? Would you share them here?

Source: Coleman, John & Coleman Jackie.2016. Don’t take work stress home with you Harvard Business Review. 28 July 2016

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