When I started writing this, I was defying my own advice. Make of that what you will, but I find that when I work from home nowadays, the more ingrained it is becoming to not work from the couch. Comfy as it can be, I find when I’m slumped with my lower back hanging off the couch and my head craned to see the screen, that is when the fatigue begins to set in, and thereafter if you’re anything like me, then you’ll have discovered that it’s hard to switch off from home. There’s something about sitting on the couch working with my headphones in, that results in working through lunch, and working after hours – after all, you’re already at home, so what’s another half hour if it means you get something done?
If you are finding it hard to switch off at the end of the day, then know you’re not alone! One of the largest issues of our modern era, is being always switched on to the network and proving your worth and trustworthiness while the world adjusts to flexibility. A recent study by the MyersBrigg institute found that people who were always on the network and able to access work emails/calls outside of work were more engaged in their jobs, but also more stressed. This is an ever-increasing issue in our work from home lifestyle. So what can we do to amend this?
Well, here are our top tips to switching off at the end of the day, and ensuring you maintain that perfect work-life balance.
Why do we need the distinction between work and life?
It seems like a no-brainer, but it is incredibly, and increasingly difficult to switch off work at 5pm each day during the week – perhaps with the exception of Friday. We all want to do well at work, and succeed in our roles, yet when we’re wired to work 24/7, we forgo the fundamental necessities that our body requires to maintain a healthy WOF. Mental, emotional and physical relaxation is necessary for our bodies to stay fighting fit and, in the long run, a healthy balance will result in a better output of work as you’re more available in all departments to commit yourself. A study in 2019 by American-based software company RescueTime looked at over 185 million hours of worktime and pulled out some of the key data around this balance (or lack thereof).
Workers average just 2 hours and 48 minutes of productive device time a day
21% of working hours are spent on entertainment, news and social media
28% of workers start their day before 8:30 a.m. (and 5% begin before 7 a.m.)
26% of work is done outside of regular working hours
We check email and instant messaging, on average, every 6 minutes
40.1% of our day is spent multitasking with communication tools
With our workdays so split, if you then throw in the fatigue that comes from a lack of work-life balance, it’s not hard to see where the cracks begin to show.
Maintain your work routine
Seemingly obvious yet difficult to enforce, maintaining your regular work routine at home can seem impossible. However, by setting aside a specific location in the house that is specifically for work, and keeping to your start and finish times, you’ll find it a lot easier to complete each day. Avoid working from the couch (especially if you relax there by night), and instead put your desk or workplace somewhere bright where you can get plenty of airflow and sun.
Keep these routines consistent to help you maintain the sense of normality and avoid the brain-drain of not turning off. Do you normally switch off for 10 minutes at the office at 11.00am for a coffee? Do it at home! Normally go for a walk at lunch? Do it at home! Normally have a bowl of cereal at 3.00pm for some reason? Do it at home! Identify those habits that you do at work, and replicate them in the comfort of your home. By maintaining these habits, you’ll find that by the time the end of the day rolls around, you’ll feel more readily able to switch off and step away from your work.
A proven method to help get your routine in rhythm is to set alarms. Similar to the above with maintaining your typical work routine, setting alarms will help you take your full lunch, finish on time, and start promptly, allowing you to have a full workday without encroaching on your personal life hours. Alarms can also help you know when to switch off, and the familiar ceremony of packing down for the day and identifying that that last bit of paperwork can wait ’til tomorrow morning is easier to enforce when you have a strict schedule in place.
Dress for your day
Perhaps an exception for those businesses that enforce a uniform, however if you’re used to the Business-Casual, Business or even Black-Tie styles, then dressing up at home can help stimulate your mind to believe it’s business as normal. Although it is extremely compelling to spend the day working in pyjamas, studies have shown that in the act of getting changed for a specific task – be it work, gym or something else, you mentally associate your chosen outfit with a desired outcome. Often I find myself wearing a nice shirt and pair of shorts (because let’s be real, summer is too hot for pants), and will change into my gym gear an hour or two before I intend to go, so my mind switches patterns. Part of the standard-life routine, is to come home from work and change into more comfortable clothes – be it sweatpants, shorts or something else altogether – and so by keeping this as an expected habit, you’ll find yourself switching off from work a lot easier.
I always roll my eyes when I see exercise listed as a “top fact” or exceptional detail, but it’s often there for good reason. A focus on getting out for fresh air and away from screens, trying out yoga to acquire a bit more zen in your life, or being active so that you have a positive impact on your life is a great way to defuse that stress. Exercise does have a remarkable impact on your life, from helping you sleep better, to increasing your blood flow, and the benefits cannot be overstated! If you have the facilities to do a full workout, then by all means do it as you’ll feel better for it, but if you can only get out for one walk a week, or one session of yoga, then pat yourself on the back for at least doing something! We’ve got enough going on in COVID, so celebrate the small wins.
Pro tip: There’s a plethora of body-weight classes that you can find on YouTube and do from the private comfort of your lounge. They’ll really help get the blood flowing and will leave you energised at the end of the workout!
Find those positive endorphins
There’s no shortage of comedies on the billions of streaming services that are now available, and laughter can be a sure-fire way to release those good endorphins and bring some light into your day. Alternatively, take the time at the end of the day to play some games – whether that’s board games or console games – or to listen to some podcasts or good music. These positive emotion releases can help in erasing the stress that might be overwhelming you and can create a key distinction in your work-life-balance. Avoid letting these habits filter into your day though. Use your lunch time hours as you normally would and don’t be tempted to include these newfound options in your work-from-home liberties.
We hope these tips help you maintain that perfect work-life balance. With so many businesses now focusing heavily on the balance too, you’re sure to find resources at work to support you with this.