Home From Work: How to Switch off (and How to Switch on Again!)
There was a time when employees wore their long hours of extra work as a badge of honor.
Working late or taking work home are still commonplace, but it used to be seen as a sign of dedication to take work on vacation, or skip your kid’s baseball game for an important client dinner.
In recent years, however, as the internet, social media, and work-from-home options have changed traditional working patterns, more organizations and employees recognize that the ability to switch off from work is vital for productivity and talent retention.
Put simply, employers who encourage their employees to rest and recharge – to switch off from work – have happier employees!
But how can we avoid the risk of burnout and learn how to keep work at work, and home at home?
We threw that question out to you, our friends and followers on social media. We asked, "What do you do to get in and out of 'work mode'?"
Stop Thinking About Work!
A common tactic was to divert your thoughts and attention to anything unconnected with your job.
For example, Facebook friend Crystal Black, from the U.S., said, "I take 10-20 minutes to sit in my car, reroute my trip home or some other low-stress diversion before engaging my family."
Mary Bond suggested taking off your watch and turning off data on your mobile phone. She said, "Both things represent for me that I'm in downtime."
Twitter follower @Ishieta said, "I take some time to do something absolutely different from every other task I do. I spend 15 mins with my watercolors or coloring pencils, or any coloring material, and a page from one of my coloring books. Music and a warm drink is optional."
For many of you, physical activity is a great way to switch off from work. Going to the gym, or enjoying a walk or run were all popular strategies, while others opt for dancing or yoga.
Our article, 11 Ways to Get More Exercise, outlines the many benefits of being active, and is packed with tips on how to build exercise into a busy schedule.
Writing on Linkedin, Dr Marloes Tijssen, an executive coach from Suffolk, U.K., suggested taking 30 minutes to reflect on the day and plan for tomorrow. She said, "That way, I know that tomorrow's work is in hand and I can stop thinking about what needs to be done."
The Challenges of Working From Home
As more and more people embrace work from home options, the challenges of such an arrangement quickly become obvious.
For example, Facebook friend and at-home employee Greg Schmierer, a financial planning and analysis manager from Rocklin, California, U.S., said, "There is always the temptation to continue to work beyond my standard work hours.
"So, with the help of my wife, in order to get out of work mode, I turn off all of my work devices and put them in my shoulder bag as if I was going into the office.
"This 'cleans' my desk of any possible work distractions. This way, I'm not tempted to leave my laptop or phone turned on."
How to Switch on Again
Just as important as switching off is being able to switch back on to work mode. If you habitually have a sluggish or disorganized start to your working day, you won't impress your superiors or your more focused colleagues.
Mind Tools senior editor Keith Jackson reckons that good organization and preparation is key to switching on quickly.
He said, "Thinking ahead helps me to 'get into the swing of things' after a period of downtime. For example, one of my last tasks of the day is to write a prioritized To-Do List that I can pick up first thing the next morning."
As a freelance writer who works from home a great deal, I have a number of go-to strategies for ensuring that I can get into a productive working mindset. These include:
Morning routines: I drink water and coffee, eat breakfast, do a little spiritual self-care, take the kids to school, exercise – once I've checked all of those things off my mental list, my brain knows, "Hey, it's time to work!"
Brain calisthenics: I'm more productive when I start my day with some creative writing. Like a musician's or athlete's warm-up routine, that burst of non-judgmental creativity helps to turn my brain on and prepare it for client work.
Organize my day: I have two routines for organizing my day. In the morning, I spend 15-20 minutes doing administrative work. Then, at the end of the day, I evaluate and prioritize the following day's tasks so that I don't have to think about it in the morning – I can just dive in.
Of course, there will be occasions when it's hard to switch off, when you're working on an important, complex project, for example. And there are times when it's more difficult to switch on, such as after a vacation. But, as we've seen above, there are strategies that you can adopt to manage both situations.
Thank you to everyone who contributed their top tips! You can still share your thoughts and ideas, below!