In recent years, advances in technology have meant we can do almost anything from almost anywhere. For many of us, this includes most (if not all) of the tasks we’re required to do for our jobs. This can be so wonderful in so many different ways but it can also be stressful and problematic if we feel we can’t ever “switch off” and get away from work. We all need to take breaks, and if we believe we can’t do this because we need to always be available then “burn out” can occur; a form of stress, anxiety and depression that in the worst-case scenarios can have significant health and wellbeing consequences.
How, then, can we switch off from work? And just as importantly, how can we switch off from work without feeling guilty?
Well, below I list my top 7 tips and I hope you find them helpful:
- Realise why it’s important to switch off; for your health and wellbeing, and for your productivity and performance. No one can function or perform at their best beyond a certain point. It’s a myth that more work means more output. Rather, after a while, our performance and productivity suffer so our output becomes less valuable. Elite athletes know that rest and recovery are just as important as training; many of us could do better if we took a similar approach
- Set up a buffer zone between work and home. It could be a stop half way along your train or bus route; or maybe a landmark past which you drive on the way home. Whatever it is, develop a habit so that when you pass that place you switch from being an employee or worker, to a husband or wife, mother or father, friend or some other character!
- Learn how to relax. This can be useful for so many reasons. Research has found that people who regularly practice relaxation skills, or mindfulness or meditation, are healthier and happier. So, trial some of the many different approaches, find what works for you, and then make it a regular part of your day and week, especially when you’re trying to switch off from the stressors and pressures (or even the excitement) of work
- Remind yourself of the value of the non-work components of your life. There’s no doubt that work can be an important part of our lives; it provides financially, but it also provides structure and meaning, stimulation and connectedness. But it’s just as important to value the other parts of our lives such as our health and wellbeing, family and friends, social and recreational activities we find enjoyable
- Create designated tech-free times and places. Determine when you DON’T want to use your smartphone and develop the discipline to go without for at least some of the time. For example, don’t take your phone to the dinner table, especially if you’re dining with family and children (but even if with friends). Leave your phone behind if you go for a walk and/or set times during the evening or weekend when you’re offline
- Start small and then build from there. You don’t have to go cold turkey or completely abandon all the wonders of technology overnight. Just an hour or two here or there; dinners and/or Sunday evenings. Whatever works for you. And then when you realise the benefits you can look to gradually increase from there
- Develop supports around you (at home and at work). Enlist the support of your partner or friends. Better still, talk to your boss and colleagues and set up ground rules you can all feel comfortable with. For example, agree NOT to send emails after a certain time at night; or if someone does message, agree that a response is not required immediately UNLESS flagged as very urgent. More often than not, most things can wait. And just as importantly, more often than not, most people are reasonable!