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The art of disconnecting

The art of disconnecting

02 December 2020

Stop, shut down, switch off. Ending the workday is easy in theory, but hard in practice. So, what can you do to truly disengage?

It’s six o’clock at the end of the working day. What are you doing? Closing down your emails? Slamming shut your laptop? Heading downstairs to relax with your family? If you’re like many homeworkers, the answer is: not necessarily.

We all know that working from home has numerous benefits; longer lie-ins, zero commuting and immediate access to good coffee and a full fridge. However, the downside is that the boundaries between work and home life can often become blurred.

One of the biggest issues reported by homeworkers is the difficulty of switching off at the end of the working day. It’s all too easy to want to finish that report, check those emails or tick off one more task when the rest of the world has already clocked off. And, while it’s tempting to burn the midnight oil to get ahead on your workload, it can have a detrimental effect on your health and wellbeing.

On the flip side, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that those who are able to mentally disconnect from work experienced less work-related fatigue, had greater engagement at work and a better work-life balance – not to mention improved mental and physical health. So how can we disconnect from work when we work at home?

Create an end-of-day shutdown ritual
Daniel Pink, author of motivational book Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, suggests creating a daily ritual to mark the end of work and beginning of home time. Pink says this can include writing a to-do list for the next day, reflecting on work completed so far and tidying your desk. It can also include taking a few minutes for quiet meditation to switch from being on call to being at home.

Reclaim your home time with a virtual ‘commute’
For new homeworkers, it can be tempting to stay in bed until the very last minute before jumping out, hopping straight on to your computer and getting stuck into work. But, come the weekend, when you want a lazy lie-in, the human Pavlovian response means you’re likely to find yourself in work mode by accident. Instead, set aside an hour or even just 30 minutes each working day where you can sit down with breakfast and the news, or go for a run – anything to differentiate between home and work. At lunch, try to factor in 20 or 30 minutes to do something away from your desk – leave the house, walk the dog or call a friend.

Out of sight, out of mind
With more of the nation working from home, it’s important to be mindful of our physical workspace and the effect it has on us. If you have a dedicated office, it’s easier to close the door on the working day as soon as you power down. But what if, like many, you work at your kitchen table or from a desk in a bedroom? Try finding a drawer, box or shelf to mindfully put your laptop and work papers away at the end of the day, so you can physically remove them from your home space and relax.

Ditch the guilt and power down
It’s important to set proper boundaries for work and leisure time. Try to see it as an investment in both yourself and your work. The most important act of self-care is to set boundaries on screen time. According to a Nielsen report, the average American spends 10 hours a day looking at screens. One way to reset your relationship with your cell phone is to use an app such as Forest. Whenever you want to stay focused, you plant a virtual tree. The tree grows while you work on your task. Picking up your phone to answer emails or play a quick game causes your tree to die. Now that’s a motivator.

Cook, indulge a hobby, or learn something new
Does your mind keep turning over work problems even after you’ve supposedly switched off? Try engaging your brain cells with something tactile and absorbing, such as cooking or baking. Focusing your mind on practical tasks, such as slicing vegetables, stirring a sauce or measuring ingredients, can help your mind detach from the working day. Alternatively, spend half an hour engaging in a hobby that requires focus and concentration, such as playing an instrument, gardening or drawing. Hobbies are shown to improve focus and productivity and inspire creativity, so factoring in even a short time for these each day will benefit your work, too.

Find solitude in nature
Take yourself offline by heading outside. Dedicate some space between the end of the working day and the start of family time to go for a walk and immerse yourself in nature (even if it’s just the local park or a tree-lined street). Spending as little as 15 minutes in the great outdoors is proven to vastly reduce stress and anxiety and will encourage your mind to let go.

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