Working from home comes with fantastic perks: no commute, your pet by your side, the flexibility to get your laundry done during the day…
…but with those benefits come challenges, too.
One of the biggest? Shutting off at the end of the day.
With no physical commute, winding down is tougher than ever. The boundary between work life and home life is blurred. It’s all too easy to answer one more email or finish up that project before calling it a day. If you’re not intentional about switching off, work can seep into the fabric of your home life – and lead to burnout.
How to Improve Mental Health
In a recent Recruiter Intel Spotlight interview, Executive Senior Partner Cindy Comisky talks about this very real problem (at the 2:53 mark). As a follow up, we share a few tips below to help you switch off from “work mode” and protect your mental health as a virtual employee:
Create a fake commute.The time you used to spend driving home from work did more than just physically transport you away from the office; it helped you mentally disconnect, too. The act of driving the same route signaled to your brain that work time was over – and it was time to relax. If you’re struggling to end your workday, try out a fake commute for a week. Literally take a 10-minute drive or walk (at the same time and along the same path) to clear your head. This can also be done in reverse to begin your day. We forget about how important our commute is upon reflection in processing what has happened during the day as well as a reset in preparing for the day ahead.
Create an end-of-day prompt. At the office, signs that the workday was over were everywhere. People turned out their office lights, gathered their belongings and left. In the absence of those signals, you should create new cues for your brain. Try setting an alarm on your computer or phone 15 minutes before you end your workday. When you hear it, discipline yourself to begin closing up shop. Better yet block your calendar at a designated time each day to prevent additional meetings popping up in your day when you should be shutting down. This let’s other employees know that you’ve set boundaries. This also works for beginning your day and my all time favorite, lunch!
Plan your next day. One of thebest ways to switch off work is by ending your day with a clear plan for the next one. Get all those to-do’s out of your head, so you can fully enjoy your personal time:
Review today’s list, assessing and noting where you need to be by the end of tomorrow.
Check your schedule for the following day (meetings, calls, etc.), inventorying how much time you really have available.
Create a new plan for tomorrow. Start by blocking off time for your highest priority work first.
Put your work stuff away.How many times do you find yourself reaching for your laptop, tablet or phone to check the latest round of emails?Is the lure of a bright screen with an ever increasing number of unopened messages too much to walk away from? Resist the urge and temptation … I promise they will be there for youin the morning. Does your phone or laptop ding with each text or email … then put them on silent mode. If you still find it difficult to stay away, then pack up all your work stuff if you must … just like when you were in the office preparing to leave at the end of the day. We all need this consistent buffer in time to recharge, relax and reset.
Celebrate daily successes. I’ve been told that self-forgiveness creates a straight line to acceptance. Far too often we tend to dwell on one thing or another that didn’t go as planned during the day and reflect on what we could have done to change the outcome. In certain instances,you might call it learning and it leads to personal growth. Making it a habit can lead to stress–induced behaviors that aren’t easily blunted without intervention. So let it go and make a new habit of celebrating the things that worked out well … chances are in any given work day you can find at least one thing to celebrate.
Build a transition ritual.Find a practice or activity that helps you shift away from work and wind down. Everyone’s interests and habits are unique, so create a practice that works for you. Here are a few starter ideas:
Tidy up your workspace and power down your equipment.
Make a cup of tea.
Meditate for five minutes.
Listen to your favorite podcast.
Call someone you love.
Walk your dog.
Change your clothes.
In the absence of a physical commute, being intentional about the way you end your workday can help shield you from burnout, improve your mental health and allow you to enjoy your time away from work more fully.