Working remotely can be a great opportunity to get away from the office, but that doesn't mean you won't feel tethered to work. In fact, some people who work remotely say they feel more "on" than ever because they do not manage to have a clear separation between work and private spaces.
Researchers are clear on their findings on the topic of detaching from work.
“There is an overall affective benefit of detaching from work”
- 'Sonnentag and Niesson, Frontiers in Psychology, 2020'
To maintain your health and sanity while working remotely, here are some strategies to keep in mind:
Disconnect from work by putting boundaries around work time, rest time, and family time
When you work remotely, it's easy to forget about the boundaries between work and home. This can lead to feeling more stressed and burnt out than if you were in an office. To avoid that, put physical barriers between your workspace and living space by keeping your laptop and phone on one side of the room at all times.
Yes, it might be really tempting to work from your bed. But you will be able to detach easier if you have a designated space to work from
Also, make sure that there's a clear distinction between when you're working and when you are taking time off by setting a start time for each day as well as an endpoint (and sticking to them). If possible, try blocking out weekends as well so that there's no confusion when Monday rolls around again!
Don't check your emails right after you get out of bed, or shortly before you get into bed
It's tempting to open up your inbox and begin responding to messages as soon as possible—it feels productive, and it feels like you're making progress on something important (even if the only thing that's important is the fact that it gives you an excuse not to do other things).
But checking your email or work messages during those moments means that any lingering thoughts about what happened during the day will be chased away by new emails, and new messages from co-workers and managers. It also limits how much time there is for reflection before sleep sets in.
In the morning especially, this can lead to anxiety and frustration at not being able to remember what happened yesterday (and make no mistake: we all forget things when we're tired). You can try getting up a little early so that you have time for real breakfast while reading your blogs or books. This allows you to have more space between starting and leaving work mentally.
In case you want to know how to turn off work thoughts during your free time, you can watch this TED Talk.
It is important to avoid responding to non-critical messages after hours
This takes the previous recommendation one step further. You should also avoid checking your emails after hours. It is important to get into the habit of not checking your email after you have decided to call it a day, or just before going to bed.
It is also crucial not to check in on the weekends, as this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with work, as work and non-work times blend.
Get up and go outside
It might sound obvious, but you’re more likely to be able to unplug when you're working remotely if you leave your house or apartment regularly.
The fresh air will help clear your mind of all the work that needs doing back at home base, and it'll give you time away from any digital coworkers who are in the same boat as you (and therefore prone to drifting back into work mode). You can:
- enjoy some exercise,
- take a walk around a park for some fresh air and sunshine, or
- even just sit on a bench somewhere quiet and read a book.
Whatever activity it is that gets your blood pumping first thing in the morning will help set the tone for how productive—or not—your day is going to be.
Plan a ritual to unwind at the end of your workday
After a productive work session, try having a ritual at the end of your workday. If you just sit on the couch and watch TV, it doesn’t count as a ritual. A ritual is something that makes you feel good and helps you relax, like exercise or meditation or reading or anything else that gives you energy rather than drains it.
Great rituals make you look forward to them and help you unwind. They can be at home, like always storing your laptop in a drawer when you are done, or outside, like going for a walk as mentioned above. You can even plan out unwinding rituals together with your team, but don’t forget to leave the work tasks outside the ritual.
It is possible to maintain a healthy work-life balance even if you're working remotely
Let’s recap. You need to set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. You should not be checking your emails after hours, or on weekends, unless it is absolutely necessary for business purposes (such as an urgent matter that cannot wait until the next day).
Whether you work fully remotely or sometimes in an office, the key to staying productive while unplugging is establishing boundaries. You need to know what your job is and how much time it takes, then set a schedule for yourself that allows for breaks and rest so that you can continue to be productive when not working.
What do you love to do after work? Let us know by tagging us over on LinkedIn at Doozyhq!