How To Detach From Work After Office Hours

by Raven Ishak

If you want your work-life balance to get back on track, it's important to find a way to detach from work after office hours. But how can you do that when you have your boss texting you at 11 p.m., or you're stressed out about your assignments because people are constantly emailing you? While it might seem impossible to disengage from work after you leave the office, it's important for you to fight the temptation to complete work at home because your well-being comes first.

"A person is going to get burnt out far faster than if they gave themselves a break. There is a mentality (especially in the United States) that work should be everyone’s number one priority at all times, and that simply isn’t true. Countless studies have shown that the simple act of checking emails after work can lead to health problems, so people need to make sure to give themselves a break to refresh and relax. You often do your best work when you have had time to collect your thoughts, reflect on the day, and recharge," says chief psychometrics officer at Good&Co Dr. Kerry Schofield in an interview with Bustle over email.

If you want to separate yourself from your work, but don't know how to do that once you get home, here are 13 tips that might help.

1. Plan Ahead

For you to fully disengage from your job, you need to plan ahead. On Mondays, try to plan out your schedule for the work week, and at the same time, block off some time where you can take a break and relax. "Some jobs are more demanding than others, but there is no excuse to not give oneself a break. You know when you are going to have meetings, you know what your busiest time of day is, so schedule yourself some free time," says Schofield.

2. Have A Ritual For When You Come Home

The only way things will change is if you decide to make some changes, right? Create a ritual so you can detach from work the minute you get home. You can go for a run, make a healthy meal, or soak in the tub for 20 minutes. Do anything that will help you relax and destress from the day. "As soon as you step through the front door, start your after-work ritual that will help put more mental distance between you and your work day. It could be anything that relaxes you and that is replicable each day. It'll go a long way to separate your worlds," says mobile employment solution Wirkn's co-founder and chief people & operations officer Francois Jobin in an interview with Bustle over email.

3. Make Sure You Set Realistic Work-Life Balance Goals

"Just like a list of career goals, make a list of your personal priorities or goals that you can accomplish with some effort. What’s important to you and what helps you take your mind off work? Perhaps it’s spending more time with friends and family, trying out new recipes, or joining a pickup sports league," says district president of OfficeTeam Brandi Britton in an interview with Bustle over email. You need to remember to put yourself first once you leave the office. Make sure everyone in your office knows that you unplug from work the minute you leave. Your well-being is just as important, don't let it fall by the way side.

4. Set Your SLA (Service Level Agreement) Early

"If your agreement includes answering emails between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., don’t answer a 3 a.m. email. If you are not going to get to something in 24 hours, it is fine to shoot a quick 'Saw the email, will respond with an answer tomorrow' reply. It is all about setting and managing expectations," says Schofield. If an email doesn't require your immediate attention, don't feel rushed to answer it until you get into the office. It's completely normal to answer the email when you get back to work the next day.

5. Prioritize Your Work Projects So You’re Ready To Leave At Closing Time

Doesn't it feel great to knock everything off your list before you head home? Try prioritize your work so you can try to accomplish this every day. "Develop a list of goals for the day and cross off tasks as they’re completed, while setting aside time for unforeseen events. If you’re able to clean your slate before you leave each day, you won’t be worried about anything when you get home," says Britton.

6. Set Boundaries

You need to be strict when it comes to your well-being. Just like how you have to log in a certain amount of hours per week for work, you should do the same for your health. "In such a global and connected world, it is just as difficult for someone to disconnect if they work from the office, as it is if they work from home. So it is important to set boundaries, let people know what [your boundaries] are, and to stick to them," says Schofield.

7. Only Work During Your Peak Productive Hours

If you are one of the lucky few who gets to work from home, then you probably know how hard it can be to have a good work-life balance when your office is your home. That's why it's important to schedule "office hours" so you don't burnout and work way into the night. "If you are working from home, you better be doing something you love, otherwise it is going to get really old [very] fast. If you want to work from home, you should be aware of your most productive hours and make sure you only work during [those times]. Have a certain part of your job you hate? Outsource it for a few bucks on a micro work job site," says Schofield.

8. Disconnect

Whatever you do, don't answer any work emails or complete any assignments that could be finished the next day. The only way you will fully relax is if you completely disconnect from your job when you're not in the office. "It’s no secret that we are glued to our cell phones. To help you disconnect, make a habit of not checking work emails in the evening, especially before bed. This will allow you to destress and reset to get a good night's sleep before another big day," says Jobin

9. Value Your Health And Well-being

Once you leave the office, you should try to do things that will make you happy. It's important to separate yourself from your assignments so you can recharge and feel fresh for the next day. "Technology has fueled our obsession with productivity and competition, making it so much more difficult [to] put your health and well-being first. Incorporating a workout into your daily routine will actually give you more physical and mental energy the following day, not to mention endorphins for conquering any stress," says Jobin.

10. Hide Your Work So You Don't See It At Home

Ever come home, look at your laptop and automatically think about all the work you have to do? Well, one of the best ways to stop doing this is by simply hiding things that will make you think of work. "It's not always feasible, but if you have the room, hide your work stuff — your briefcase, laptop or work phone — in a spot that is predominantly out of view. The 'out of sight, out of mind' theory just might help you disconnect that much more," says Jobin.

11. Give Yourself A Reason To Leave The Office At A Normal Hour

If you're anything like me, you fear to schedule fun activities after work because you believe it could interfere with your deadlines. But sometimes you need that little motivation to help you focus during those office hours so you don't have to bring your work home with you. "Chances are if you have a fun commitment planned after work, you’ll be more motivated to stick to working only during business hours. Plus, planning an enjoyable and social activity in the evenings is a great way to destress," says Britton.

12. Don't Overcommit Yourself

"While saying 'yes' to extra work is often a good career move, taking on more than you can handle can be harmful to your work-life balance. If you realize that you’re bringing work home with you every evening, speak up. Managers want their employees to work hard, but they also don’t want them to burn out" says Britton. You're not a bad worker if you think you have too much on your plate. It's important to know your limit so you're not on the clock 24/7.

13. Embrace Your Downtime

Sometimes it can be hard to fully embrace your downtime when you know you have so many assignments to accomplish. But if you want to produce your best work, you need to remember to take care of yourself, and sometimes that means you need to stay away from your work when you're not in the office. "When you do have time away from work, like in the evenings, on vacations or even on your lunch break, make sure you take care of yourself. It’s important to rest and recharge in order to stay healthy," says Britton.

If you want to have a better work-life balance, you need to learn how to unplug once you get home. Don't overcommit yourself, value your health and well-being, and learn to set boundaries. After some practice, hopefully you can fully detach from your nine-to-five after office hours so you don't burnout.

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