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How to switch off when working from home

Written by: Ethan Cumming
Published on: 21 May 2020

With no end in sight for social distancing and remote working, many of us continue to struggle to clock off at the end of the day. Here’s 6 tips to help you learn how to switch off when working from home.

How to switch off when working from home

No commuting, more flexibility, dressing casually every day of the week: working from home comes with some great perks. But if you’re one of the many UK professionals currently working remotely due to the Coronavirus lockdown, you may have begun to realise the challenge of striking work/life balance when the line between your personal and professional lives has become more blurred than ever.

With fear of redundancies compelling some to work longer hours than necessary and a perceived expectation to always be available, online presenteeism could become a real problem for employers and employees alike. Legal professionals struggling to switch off at the end of the day risk suffering from the stress-induced physical, emotional and mental exhaustion known as burnout.

For many, there is still no end in sight for working from home, so it’s important to learn how to switch your work brain on and off at the right times. If you find yourself doing “just one more task” after working hours, checking emails at the dinner table or thinking about work when you’re watching a film, these 6 tips should help you learn how to switch off when working from home.

  • Create spatial boundaries between your work and rest areas
  • Stick to a routine throughout each day
  • Take regular breaks and get outside at lunchtime
  • Literally switch off your work computer, phone or notifications
  • Make after work plans where others rely on you to show up
  • Plan for tomorrow so you can rest assured that nothing important has been forgotten


Create spatial boundaries

It’s a fact that not everyone has a dedicated office in their home, but most are able to create an area that is used solely for work. If you can set up a desk in the corner where you do all your work then that’s great, but if your makeshift workspace is at the dining table you can help yourself switch off by packing away your work equipment at the end of each day. What you want to create here are spatial boundaries to keep work and rest spaces separated, so wherever possible, avoid working in your bedroom and other places that you relax.


Stick to a routine

If you don’t already have a daily routine for working from home, now is the time to get into one and stick to it. Get up, get dressed, have breakfast and start work at the same time each day, and you’ll be more likely to slow down and wrap up at the right time, meaning you’ll be able to switch off and enjoy your evening without worrying about work.


Take regular breaks

As part of this established routine, you should be taking regular breaks throughout the day. You wouldn’t sit at your desk at the office all day without getting up to make a tea or stretch your legs, and this should be no different at home. For every hour or two of solid work that you do, take 10-15 minutes to disconnect. It’s also a good idea to get outside at lunchtime - even just a short walk to remove yourself from the work environment can help you to relax.


Literally switch off

At the end of each day, switch off your computer or close your laptop. If you are fortunate enough to have an office at home, leave your work equipment in there overnight and close the door. If not, shut down your computer and pack everything away. If your computer isn’t switched on and in front of you, you’re less likely to read emails or check how a project is coming along out of hours. Similarly, if you have a work phone, turn it off overnight, or if you have work apps on your personal phone, switch off notifications outside of working hours.


Make after work plans

When working at the office, things like saying goodbye to your colleagues and rushing for the earlier train signify the end of the working day. However, at home these signposts are all but erased, making it easy to work much later into the night than required. The solution is to have something scheduled in at the end of each day to let your mind and body know that work is over. Going for a walk, exercising, calling a friend or playing a board game with your family are just a few ideas of activities to schedule in to help you unplug. By committing to these plans - especially the ones where others rely on you to show up - you’ll be forced to finish work on time.


Plan for tomorrow

Spend the final 10-15 minutes of your day planning your top priorities for the following work day. By acknowledging your outstanding tasks and the order of their importance, you’ll be putting your mind at ease with the assurance that no work has been forgotten about or missed, allowing you to relax and unwind before picking it up again tomorrow.