Leaving Work At Work: Five Steps To Disconnect
August 16, 2021 | Articles
When you’re at work, no one’s asking about dinner, arguing over toys, or demanding a bedtime story — at least we hope not. And we’re also going to assume your loved ones aren’t approaching you at home asking for reports or requesting a Zoom meeting.
It’s clear that the demands of the office and the demands at home can be drastically different. At the office, you take care of your clients. At home, you take care of your loved ones and, most importantly, yourself.
But that doesn’t always happen. According to a study by Rescue Time, employees take more than a quarter of their work home with them.
An inability to separate work life from home life can make it difficult to adjust your mood and energy to fit each one — especially when you’re bringing work home. When you can’t transition from the office to home life, it can often lead to blurred boundaries, burnout, and feelings of stress or, worse, guilt.
When the pandemic hit, these issues were only heightened as many of us moved to work-from-home life. Our usual routines, like waking up early, going to the gym before work, putting on office clothes and makeup and commuting to the office, all disappeared.
Along with that, many working parents took on extra roles as the pandemic shut down schools and children had to learn from home. With COVID-19 still affecting our daily lives, there’s still a high degree of uncertainty and anxiety, making it more important than ever for hard workers to enjoy life outside of the office.
Being present at home is paramount to maintaining work-life balance. But if you don’t know how to make this transition, it can feel impossible to switch gears, both mentally and physically.
And if you’re still working from home, it can be even harder because you don’t physically change locations; sometimes you don’t change clothes either. You may not be taking the time away from work and family for even just a few minutes to recharge and signal the change from office to home life.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to leave work at work and enjoy your time at home. After all, you work hard all day and deserve a much-needed break from business. Take these actions to easily move from the office to the house each day.
Do a Brain Dump
Keep concerns, questions, and the next day’s tasks at your desk by completing a brain dump before you leave for the day.
A brain dump allows you to “empty your brain” by writing down all of your thoughts onto a piece of paper. Create a to-do list for the next day, with the most pertinent tasks at the top. If there’s anything you need to remember associated with each task, write it down, too.
On another sheet of paper, write down any additional tasks, thoughts, or ideas you have – basically anything that’ll gnaw at you after working hours. This will help get it all out of your head and organized, so your mind doesn’t wander to those things later. It also helps you be more productive.
According to laboratory and field experiments conducted for a paper by the Harvard Business Review, researchers found that new employees who reflected for 15 minutes at the end of the day performed 22.8% higher than those who didn’t.
Create an End-Of-Day Routine
A routine helps cultivate good habits and transitioning from work to home is the good habit you’re looking to build. When you do your end-of-day routine, it signals that the workday is done. It prepares your brain to switch to at-home mode.
Creating a routine simply means creating a sequence of actions you do just before you leave the office. It can be anything you want, but it can be more beneficial if these actions also set you up for success the next day.
For example, you could start by doing your brain dump, then tidying up your desk and wiping it down just before you leave. You’ll signal the end of the day and have everything clean and prepared when you come in the next morning.
Make it more fun by creating a playlist to listen to while completing your tasks or ending the routine with a small treat as a reward for making it through another day.
Take That Commute
Most people see a commute as a necessary evil, but commuting can give you time to decompress and provide the change of scenery needed to signal you’ve left the office. And, if you walk or bike to work, it also gives you fresh air and physical activity to refresh and re-energize you.
According to Rescue Time, we use 80% of our day doing collaborative activities. You need some time in the day for yourself. Use your commute as the time you need to take a breath, spend some time alone, wind down from the workday, and prepare for taking on your household tasks.
Seeing your commute as your “me” time can make the traffic a little more bearable. When you’re using the commute to transition from work to home, you’ll see extra time on the road as extra time for you. Take this time to listen to a book on tape or your favorite podcast. Practice breathing exercises or blast your favorite music — whatever it is that allows you to unwind.
If you’re still working from home, you can find ways to still take that commute. If you’re able to, hop in the car and drive around the block, take a 5-minute walk, or simply sit in your car and play the radio for a few minutes to help signal that change in the day.
Change Out of Those Work Clothes
Another action that can signal the shift from work to home is changing out of those stiff work clothes and into something more casual and comfortable.
Changing out of office clothes works in a couple ways.
For one, you’re literally shedding the workday off. Second, by physically changing your clothes, you’re helping change your mindset. People often associate business attire with work and casual clothing with rest and relaxation.
Make Changes Little by Little
Putting this all into practice can take time, and we don’t recommend making all of these changes at once. Take baby steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Start by implementing one or two of these actions into your day and adding little by little as you grow more accustomed to these small changes.
It won’t happen overnight but, soon enough, you’ll find yourself feeling more relaxed and present during at-home hours. And while those hours may not be billable, they are the most important.