How to Disconnect from Work

Here are some useful pointers on how to disconnect from work when working remotely

At the start of 2020, we conducted a remote work survey and found that 44% of respondents worked more than 40 hours a week. We also did another survey on the sudden remoteness situation and 32% of the 892 respondents said they were working longer hours than before. Another 33% said their biggest challenge was to separate work and personal life.

Separating work and personal life has become such a pertinent problem that people are questioning if they are working from home or living at work. So we decided to take this up as a discussion point and share simple, practical & effective tips on how to unplug from work and get appropriate rest.

7 Signs that you are Overworked

  1. Your mind feels like it is overloaded and you struggle to process thoughts in your head
  2. You are constantly thinking of what you could get done at work and what's pending. As a result, you constantly feel drained.
  3. You observe physical symptoms such as headaches, indigestion etc., which weren't present earlier.
  4. You have cognitive problems like forgetfulness, lack of focus etc.
  5. You aren't getting sleep and/ or are having noticeable mood swings (sudden anger, irritation)
  6. Your workspace or desk is getting cluttered
  7. You aren't happy at work and/ or feel lack of motivation

Often, we see these early symptoms or signs of work stress but choose to ignore them. If you have taken the effort to read through this, do also act upon it.

As you will see in the following section, some simple hacks in your daily routine or even a day or two off (from work) can make a huge difference in tacking work stress and feel rejuvenated.

7 Tips on How to Disconnect from Work when Working Remotely

1) Set physical boundaries

There's no second opinion to having a dedicated space at home where you work from. In addition, it helps to clear your desk before you start working and after you finish. This gets you in the right mental space to plug in and unplug from work.

Scott pointed out a nice hack if it's tough for you to have a dedicated space/ room for work. You can instead have a 'work basket' where you put everything related to work e.g. laptop, work diary etc.

2) Set an attainable start and end time. Set a 'No work' time range.

Just because your office is at arms length when you are working home doesn't mean you should always be plugged into work. It's super tempting to reply to that one Slack message or check the status of an important issue at odd hours. But it only makes things worse in the long run.

Developing a work routine and sticking to a daily schedule (with a start and end time) will help you feel less stressed about work. No one's forcing you to align your work timings by the clock needle. Have a generous buffer if you need. For example, your work day could start from 8 to 10 AM and go on till 6 to 8 PM.

Alternatively, you can mark a 'No Work' time range, say from 8PM to 8AM. No matter what, you don't take up work during this period.

Finally, it is super important to convey this to your team. As much as they should know when you are working and available, they should also know when you aren't available.

3) Schedule lunch breaks

When you are in office, you almost never miss your lunch break. Either your colleagues or a routine signal pushes you to take that much needed mid-day break.

At home, you lose such external signals and hence, you should consciously create one for yourself. Blocking a recurring time in your calendar can be an effective hack.

Lunch at your desk should be a rare occurrence. Make sure to get up from your desk and have lunch in your dining or living area.

4) Enjoy tiny breaks during the day

Breaks are essential to re-energise yourself or to help you get rid of a mental block. In office, you naturally grab a coffee or chat with a co-worker at the water cooler. When you are working from home, make that conscious attempt to take a break.

Take advantage of your remote work situation and go for a quick walk or run. You could also engage in your hobby during the break, e.g. playing an instrument or even listening to music. Make it a ritual that you follow daily.

Finally, ensure that the break takes you away from the desk.

5) Have a 'Work is Over' ritual

Make sure to explicitly call it a day when you are done. Lindsay rightly points out that you need to remind yourself that your work day is over. For that, you could have a 'Work is Over' mantra or slogan and you can call it out loud at the end of each working day.

Scott adds to it saying, "Rituals are important to create boundaries. For example, start every work week with a walk. Also end each work week with a walk. It’s a nice, solid reminder that reminds you there’s a rhythm to the work week."

6) Make restarting work difficult

To resist the temptation to restart work, make it super difficult to get back to work when you are in your 'No Work' time range. Turn off your computer, pack your stuff and put it in a closet/ basket, even put your phone on airplane mode if possible.

It is just a matter of habit. Once you come to realise that work isn't possible beyond your usual work hours, you would naturally resist the temptation to do it in the first place.

7) Engage in a hobby or passion outside of work

This is probably the best way to unplug from work and de-stress yourself. If you are passionate about something, you would naturally look forward to it after work.

For example, if you are a fitness enthusiast, you would be excited for your evening workout session post work. To disengage from work, you need to find something else that you can engage yourself in.

In fact, established remote companies like Doist, Basecamp etc. see a correlation between having a hobby or passion and being a successful remote worker. So much so that they look out for this in their hiring process and reward candidates who already have a passion outside of work.

Bonus - Decompress or fake commute to detach from work thoughts

Kevin, a highly experienced remote worker, shared an interesting technique he uses to wrap up work. He calls it the fake commute, which takes ~30 minutes. These are the 3 steps he does daily while wrapping up work -

  1. 10-15 minutes - Finishing up the current task and consciously not doing a deep dive into any issue.
  2. 5 minutes - Notes for the next day on where to start and any other context.
  3. 10-15 minutes - A mindfulness exercise to clear the mind.

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