Stress is one of the top contributors to poor health for adults in the United States. The demands we place on ourselves in the workplace can cause both short- and long-term health issues and affect our relationships with our loved ones. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Knowing how to disconnect from work after work hours and concentrate on the present can help employees create an effective work-life separation and improve their overall employee experience. Here are some tips employees can use — and managers can share with their teams – on the importance of knowing how to disconnect from work.
Establish Your Boundaries
In order to maintain a good balance, and even separation between your work hours and your life away from work, it is important to establish your boundaries early on. If you answer e-mails from home at night, then you give people permission to e-mail you after work hours. The earlier in your career that you set the standard for how someone should communicate with you professionally, the easier it will be for them to respect the boundaries and the easier it will be for you to disconnect from work.
Switch Off Your Electronic Devices
The average North American adult spends nearly 10 hours per day looking at various screens and while most of this time can be attributed to work, it still leaves several hours where we are staring at screens for personal reasons. Studies have shown that staring at our screens for one to two hours before going to sleep can lead to increased anxiety, depression, poor sleep and a decrease in emotional well-being. The answer is to take a break from these devices but that is difficult when we don’t even realize how much we use them. The average American adult checks his cell phone up to 85 times per day but, when asked, would only estimate half that number.
It is difficult to disconnect from work when we apply the same practices in our personal life as we do in our professional one. Choose to read a book before bed or to listen to soothing music without your eyes glued to an electronic screen. Do not take work to bed with you.
Spend Time Alone
How easy is it to leave the office then go and complain about the office to a friend or partner? How can you really disconnect from work if you think and talk about it even in your personal time? Solitude is one of the most powerful tools to help you disconnect from work. Spending time alone helps you to process and regulate complex emotions and thoughts, free from the opinions and judgements of others. Take some quiet time in the evening to process your day and your feelings, disconnect from work and recharge.
Learn Something New
Researchers have discovered that engaging in challenging activities outside of the office that we enjoy helps us to disconnect from work. Take up a new language, learn how to play chess, take up a dance class, learn to knit… the list of new hobbies to try is endless and is a surefire way to disconnect from work. Who knows, you might even make new friends as well!
Take Your Full Vacation
Americans are notorious for skipping vacations even though an overwhelming majority of employees believe companies should offer more paid time off. American employees, as a rule, receive less vacation than many other countries. In Europe, for example, employees typically have four weeks of paid vacation. Don’t be a martyr to your company: take the vacation you have earned and are owed as the break from work will do you the world of good and help you to really disconnect from work.
So as ensure you do not feel tempted to work while on vacation and fully disconnect from work, make sure you do as much work and preparation as you can ahead of time. Finish outstanding projects, tie up loose ends and leave clear instructions for the colleagues who will be covering your workload so you will not be contacted while you are away. You should also establish a clear definition of what an “emergency” is and let your colleagues know the circumstances under which they can contact you i.e. a real emergency and not something they can find out themselves or something that can wait until you’re back in the office. This way, you will fully disconnect from work and enjoy your well-earned break.
Know When to Say No
Your career success does not depend on how often you agree to do additional work. Sometimes volunteering for other projects or accepting new responsibilities is a great thing, but learn to discern when it isn’t. If you cannot take on the additional workload, politely decline. You can even offer alternative solutions to the person making the request.
Manage Your Technology
The advent of cell phones and personal devices really changed the game for corporate employees. Now everyone has access to emails, texts and phone calls 24/7. This is also creating a culture of high stress and the inability to disconnect from work while away from the office. It is okay for you to set a time to stop responding to work phone calls or emails. You can even set autoresponders that will let the recipients know you’ll be back to work in the morning and will contact them at that time.