Before covid many of us would have loved to be able to work from home; it was the ultimate dream. But as most of us have been doing this for the past 18 months or so now, the reality is very different to the idyllic picture we’d created in our heads. We’ve discovered how isolating it can feel, how much longer the hours end up being, and we’ve experienced how difficult it is to switch off when working from home.
According to research carried out by Finder UK, 30.9% of remote workers struggled with loneliness when working from home during 2021 and 22% of telecommuters said that “switching off” after work was their biggest challenge. Although workers are gradually starting to venture back into offices, the way we work seems to have changed for good, with many businesses opting for flexible work schemes that see workers sharing their time between office and home.
With this in mind, we think it’s time to establish some healthy habits and so we’ve put together our top 5 self care tips to help you switch off when working from home:
1. Out of Sight Out Of Mind
Now that we work from home it’s much more difficult to escape the office. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to work in the spare room, it’s a lot easier to close the door and switch off from work come the end of the day. But if you’ve had to make do with a makeshift desk from the kitchen table or you’ve converted a small corner of your living room into some form of workspace, it’s much more difficult to get away from it. And a big part of being able to switch off from work is not being able to see anything associated with it.
Mark the end of the working day by having a mini clear up. Put paperwork in folders, stationery in drawers, the laptop back in its case. This small ritual will train you to separate work from home and in a sense grant you the permission to switch off. As the saying goes, out of sight out of mind, and so by packing away your work items it becomes much easier to switch from work mode into home mode.
2. Down Tools And Go For A Walk
Back when we actually had to leave the house to go to work, the daily commute felt like a chore. In 2019 the average daily commute was 59 minutes. It made our working day longer, meant we had to get up earlier, and often didn’t get back home before dark. Fast forward to 2021 and can you even begin to imagine how much those commuting hours must have decreased by over the course of 18 months!?!
But as much as the daily work commute felt like a trudge, it actually came with some very important benefits. Because that journey home marked the end of the day for us. Those 59 minutes on the train, in the car, walking home, allowed us to process what had happened during the day, to think through any work worries we had and so by the time we reached home, we were in a much better, more relaxed state of mind. Now that our daily commute is pretty much from bedroom, to bathroom, to kitchen, to desk, aside from our step count being quite frankly diabolical, we just don’t get a chance to mentally recover from the day.
Which is why one of the best things you can do to help switch off when working from home is to go for a walk. Pop on your walking socks, grab a bottle of water, download a podcast or playlist, pop some headphones in and venture outside. The exercise will benefit you in two ways:
- Physically – Sitting at a desk, especially if it isn’t set at the right height, for long periods of time is not great for your posture and the long-term health of your joints. Taking regular breaks to stand up and move around will help, and a walk at lunchtime and after work will help to relieve any stiffness that may have accumulated throughout the day.
- Mentally – Fresh air literally blows the cobwebs away, and in fact regular breaks away from the screen, especially breaks that are taken outdoors, have been shown to make you much more productive when you return to your work.
3. Change Into Your Comfies
Let’s be honest, the vast majority of us have been slumming it in loungewear for the past 18 months or so. It’s one of the perks of working from home, right? But the thing is, it doesn’t help to create that distinction between work and downtime. While we’re not expecting you to wear a suit to work from home, it would perhaps be a good idea to create a work from home wardrobe that’s separate from the clothes you would wear to relax in.
Putting on your designated work outfit, will help get you in the right headspace for working, and likewise slipping into a pair of women’s bed socks and comfy pyjamas at the end of the day will signal to your brain that the working day is over and that you can relax. It’s a very small change to make, but one that comes with many benefits and will also help with your transition back into office life when the time comes for you to return in person.
4. Put Your Phone On Silent
There is nothing worse than sitting down for the evening in front of the telly, only for it to be disturbed by a cacophony of different notification pings. How on earth are you meant to relax when you’re constantly on tenterhooks listening out for any emails that have just come in? You can’t. And the thing is, we really don’t need to put ourselves through this. We’re certainly not being paid to be on call 24/7 so why should we be?!?
The answer is simple.
Just switch off. That’s right. Switch off your phone, laptop, computer, whatever, or at the very least turn off your notifications or put them on silent. Stepping away from your digital devices not only gives your eyes a much needed break, but it also allows you to log off from work mode.
And we get that sometimes you might want to use your devices for recreational purposes, after all that in itself is a form of switching off too. So, if you can’t resist the temptation to check work emails at the same time as scrolling through your Insta, it’s time to set yourself some boundaries. Make it a rule that you come off all screens by a certain time each evening – this should ideally be at least half an hour before you go to bed, as blue light and screen time plays havoc with sleep health. Use your time instead to create a wind down ritual. Talking of which…
5. Create A Ritual
As humans, we thrive on routines. It helps give us structure and makes us feel centred and in control. The pandemic threw our routines well and truly out of whack, and to be honest they still haven’t recovered, which has made our ability to switch off when working from home even more difficult.
Now is the time to create a new ritual, one that will help with this switch off, and that will help to establish us back into a routine that works for us. It doesn’t need to be a big thing, just small changes, that are consistent. Because as we all know, consistency is key. The four tips we’ve mentioned above will help you on your way, now it’s up to you to introduce a few self care rituals to complete your total work from home switch off. Ideas could include:
- Lighting a scented candle
- Have a bath or shower
- Read a book
- Write in your journal
- Use a meditation app
- Have a glass of wine or a hot chocolate
- Cuddle and chat with your partner
- Try out a new recipe
- Give yourself a home spa treatment.
It doesn’t matter what you choose, you just need to make sure you do it. This is time for you. Time to unwind, to reflect, to enjoy time spent with yourself. No pressure, no stress, no notifications. Just you.
No one’s saying it’s going to be easy. Life has changed dramatically over the past year and a half, and we have all had to make many changes to the way we lead our daily lives. Our homes have become our offices and switching off from that is difficult. But hopefully by implementing some of the tips we’ve given you above, it should help to separate these two areas so that you can enjoy spending time in your home without feeling as though you never leave work.