81% of office workers say they check their work email when they’re supposed to be off duty. The rise of smartphones has made it easy for people to be a few taps away from work at all times. That’s led to the rise of always-on workplaces, which isn’t healthy long-term and can lead to mental burnout. No matter how much you love your job, everyone needs an occasional mental break from work to perform at an optimal level. Finding the right work-life balance can be a balancing act, but disconnecting from technology is a good first step. Here’s how to make a clean break when you need some downtime.
create a relaxing ritual
People are creatures of habit. Once we establish a routine, it becomes much easier to stick to it. Create a ‘getting home from work’ ritual for yourself that helps you disconnect from work. Maybe that means changing into comfy clothes. Maybe it means snuggling with your pet. Perhaps it means picking up a book and putting your phone on silent. Or maybe it’s all of the above. Whatever makes you feel relaxed and helps you decompress from the day, make that a part of your routine when you get home. After a while, it’ll become a habit to have that de-stressing element in your day.
You know your limits. However, your coworkers might not. It’s important to communicate your expectations and boundaries with others if you want them to be respected. People can’t support you if they don’t know what your expectations are. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or need some time to yourself, let your coworkers know. Most people will be respectful of your wishes if you explain your rationale beforehand. Like with most things in life, a little communication goes a long way!
make realistic goals
You know your career and the expectations placed on you better than anyone. If you’re used to working 7-days a week, it’s probably not realistic to say you’re going to quit working weekends immediately. Making an unrealistic goal for your work-life balance will just set you up for failure. Instead of promising yourself you’re going to cut your bad habit cold turkey, take baby steps. Slow and steady progress is more likely to stick around long-term. A more reasonable goal might be limiting the number of hours you spend on work on the weekend.
don’t reply to emails after hours
We’ll amend this one: unless it’s an emergency. Sometimes situations crop up at inopportune times and you need to respond. If that’s the case, by all means, put out the fire if it’ll save you some time and headaches tomorrow. But if it’s just a run of the mill email that isn’t urgent, leave responding until you’re back on the clock. Your coworkers will thank you. When one person starts the cycle of replying after hours, often it places pressure on everyone else to do the same. Cut the cycle, particularly if you’re in a leadership position and are setting the tone for your team.
take a vacation
Sometimes a little mindfulness isn’t going to cut it. If you’re feeling especially stressed and burnt out, it’s probably time for a vacation to clear your mind and refocus. We’ve talked about the importance of taking vacations before. It’s statistically proven that taking time off makes you a better employee. The average Canadian receives 17 vacation days for a reason. Use them! If taking a week off at a time seems like too much, even short breaks of a day or two at help clear your mental state and give you time to recharge your batteries.
mute email notifications
When your phone chirps and beeps at every incoming email, of course you’re going to look. It’s human nature to respond. So set your email alerts on mute when you get home in the evening. When your phone isn’t alerting you to every email that crosses your inbox, it’s much easier to tune them out and focus your attention on making the most of your downtime. This way checking emails is at your discretion, rather than an instinctive response to your smartphone chiming.
If you find yourself gravitating to work whenever you’re in front of your laptop or smartphone, remove the temptation. Set aside a little time each evening to go analog and power down all your electronic devices (or at least set them on silent). Besides being good to disconnect from work stresses, getting away from digital screens is a good idea for your health and wellness. Office workers spend most of their day in front of a screen. Screens emit a high percentage of blue light which can cause headaches. Avoid the temptation to switch on the TV as soon as you get home, and make time to indulge in a non-digital hobby like reading, going for a walk or writing in a journal. Your mental health will thank you.