At the start of 2020, we conducted a remote work survey and found that 44% of respondents worked more than 40 hours a week. Just a few months back, we 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 I decided to take this up as our discussion point this week and share simple, practical & effective tips on how to unplug from work and get appropriate rest.
Just before you delve in, I have a more detailed version of the post here. For the sake of brevity, I have only included the most important parts here.
How to Disconnect from Work when Working Remotely
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.
Set an attainable start and end time. Set a ‘No work’ time range.
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.
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, I have taken to starting every work week with a walk. I also end each work week with a walk. It’s a nice, solid reminder that reminds me there’s a rhythm to the work week.”
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.
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.
Decompress or fake commute to detach from work thoughts
Kevin 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 -
10-15 minutes - Finishing up the current task and consciously not doing a deep dive into any issue.
5 minutes - Notes for the next day on where to start and any other context.
10-15 minutes - A mindfulness exercise to clear the mind.
Alda, an experienced remote worker, said that:
"To me, this usually means some exercise (right now, due to Covid, a few minutes on the elliptical machine - which I finally got after 4 months not walking anywhere - and sometimes some stretching and yoga poses), a shower, and then dinner, but I still catch myself reading emails or working a little bit afterward. A ritual along the lines of a mantra could work :)"
Scott Dawson, the author of the book The Art of Working Remotely, said that: