Many people have started working from home for the first time this year due to the global pandemic and company changes. If you’re in this boat, you’re likely struggling to learn how to best switch off from work when you can’t just walk out the door and enjoy the average transition time that comes from going to a job elsewhere.
There are things you can do, though, to help yourself wind down after a hard day and ensure your mental and physical wellbeing stays intact. Here are some strategies to try in 2021.
Develop a Routine
Try to develop a set work routine, so you start and finish at the same hours every day, wherever possible. Doing this will help you to stop working more than you should. Set the alarm on your computer, smartphone, or watch, etc., to remind you when to start wrapping up, since you won’t have the usual visual cues of departing co-workers that you’d have in a traditional workplace.
It also pays to create signals for yourself that cement the fact that you’re finishing for the day. For example, pack up paperwork and power down your computer, rather than leaving everything out and running. When work gear is right there, out in the open and evident every time you walk past, it’s much harder to switch off.
Do Some Thinking and Planning
Another way to help yourself turn off from work is to spend the last 30 to 60 minutes of each day thinking about the lows and highs of that period and your takeaways. For example, were there any particular challenges or wins to absorb? Did anything surprise you? Did you learn something new?
Also, take this time to plan out what you need to do the following day. Set a to-do list for yourself in order of priority, focusing on the most important and valuable jobs you can get done. Work out how long you need to travel to and from meetings or other outside-the-home appointments, and determine your routes to reach places.
Spending a period thinking and planning will lessen the chances you keep doing “just one more thing” before you finish for the day or wake up in the middle of the night stressing about something. It reduces the likelihood of spending your downtime thinking about work rather than being present with family members, friends, or doing your hobbies or other activities. Knowing that you’ve written down your most important projects for the next day will allow your mind to stop whirling.
Use Transition Rituals
Our brains often need to notice physical cues that the workday has ended. As such, look for some rituals you can put in place at the end of the day to help you transition from one mindset to another. For example, shower, get changed, have a cup of tea, chat with a loved one, or read a book.
You could also walk your dog, do some meditation, or go to the gym or for a run. Many people also find yoga helpful. Time spent tuning into the breath and stretching a stiff body helps let the work day’s stressors go. Even if you’ve never done yoga before, you can start small and use helpful props, such as a yoga pillow, block, or strap, to modify exercises and ease your body into new, lengthening positions.
Set Up Commitments
If you find that you can’t seem to make yourself stop work at a reasonable hour no matter what you do, you may need external stimuli to aid you. For example, set up commitments with other people to force you to cease work at a particular time. You could arrange to have drinks with a friend, attend a gym session, or designate set hours each day for quality time with your partner and/or children.
Define Your Work Area
If you have a specific home office where you can walk out and shut the door at the end of the day, that’s incredibly helpful. If not, you’ll need to find ways to define your work area, so it doesn’t continue to draw your attention during your leisure time. For example, set up a screen or curtain to delineate the zone. Try to only work in a single part of your home, too, rather than letting your work items spread throughout the house.
Working from home comes with many benefits, including saving time on commuting, having more flexible hours, and saving money on transport and parking, etc. However, there are some downsides too, such as that it can be hard to switch off. Keep your mental health strong by following the above tips to avoid burnout.