remote work tips

5 Ways To Disconnect From Work: WFH Edition

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How can we expect our minds and bodies to disconnect from work after we close our laptops for the day? 

In today’s world, there’s no such thing as a “work-life balance”. This phrase implies that the 2 are completely separate entities when in reality, they are woven so deeply into each other. The new challenge is: how do we allow both to co-exist? And how do we ensure that we’re fully present when work requires us, and when life in general requires us? 

It’s been almost a year since COVID forced us to work remotely, whether we wanted to or not. Before our first lockdown in March 2019, I like to think I had a pretty solid routine. I’d wake up at 7am, get changed and ready for the day, eat breakfast, hop in the car and drive to work. For the first few months of remote work, however, my morning blurred into one block of time that really had no solid start or end: waking up and starting work and eating breakfast and drinking my coffee. I’d often look at the clock and realize I hadn’t moved in 6 hours, and my PJs from 2 days ago are still on. 

The biggest challenge of remote work, for me, has been developing a solid start and end to the work day, and learning to disconnect from work when “life” calls my name. Here are 5 ways I’ve been working at it during these times: 

1. Add extra time buffer around your sleep

I try to add at least 30 minutes to an hour before I go to sleep, and before I wake up. This adds some “awake time” to my schedule so that I can fully disconnect from technology and get some time to think. As an example: I try to be in bed by 10pm, and up by 7am. I’ll “block off” 9:30pm to 7:30am as strictly relaxing hours.

During this buffer of time, I try to avoid work. It’s not perfect, and some nights I’m on my phone until the moment I go to sleep, but allowing this buffer has been a good way to draw the line. If you think of something related to work during your buffer time, jot it down on a piece of paper and come back to it during work hours. 

What's the benefit of doing this?

By allowing some time without your device before bed, you can relax more (and avoid blue light), allowing you to sleep better and longer. 

Giving yourself extra time in the morning means you can “get ready” for work (more on this later) and create a morning routine that will help you be more productive during the day. 

2. Imitate your commute

If you’re living in a place where going for a walk around the neighbourhood is still doable and safe, try this: imitate your commute with a 10 minute walk after work. The purpose of this is to disassociate your brain from work-related activities and allow you to focus on what’s next in your day. 

What's the benefit of doing this?

Your body and mind are connected, and by changing your physical space, you can trick your mind into believing that the work day is over. By the time you get back to your place after a walk, you’ll be ready for the next part of your day! 

3. Build up resilience for your day with a morning routine

A morning routine that sets you up for resilience and productivity is crucial these days. As our lives look more and more like Groundhog Day on repeat, creating a solid starting point has made a big difference for me. I try to make sure my morning routine has some or all of these elements: 

  • Buffer time (as mentioned above). I always make sure I’m up and ready at least 30 minutes before I start work.
  • An anchoring drink. Mine is coffee with almond creamer – but this could be anything you would look forward to. 
  • An act of self-love. This one has required some experimenting, but usually for me, this is a workout or stretching. It could be a run outside, a bath, reading the news, or spending time with a loved one. 

What's the benefit of doing this?

In my experience, productivity doesn’t just happen. I have to actively work at it. My best and most productive days are ones where I feel ready and relaxed. My morning routine is a good platform to establish that. 

4. Set up coffee chats

The one thing that I hear lots from folks who aren’t used to remote work, is that they miss the social aspect that being in the office comes with. Chatting with your coworkers at the water-cooler is no longer possible when we’re all at home. But there are things you can do instead! Sneak 10-15 minutes in your colleague or friends’ calendar, grab a cup of coffee, and chat. It could be just a general catch-up call, or you could run through some ice-breaker questions (sounds lame, I know, but they can really open the doors to learning more about your colleagues). Here are some great “coffee chat” questions, or you could even pull inspiration from networking questions like these

What's the benefit of doing this?

Coffee chats with colleagues allow you to get to know the people you work with on a more personal level. They help improve your social relationships, which in turn, makes your team more cohesive. Having a coffee chat with a friend is a good way to keep in touch during these times, and allows some social interaction during the work day. 

5. Tune into your body and take breaks

Tired and dry eyes, ongoing headaches, back pain and brain fog are just some of the warning signs my body was giving me before I tuned into them. When I feel these coming on, I try to take a break and even if it’s only for 5 minutes, it helps. Sticking to a morning and night time routine has also helped me to reduce these symptoms. 

What's the benefit of doing this?

Sitting at our computers all day (and sometimes at the kitchen counter on a bar stool) is not the most ergonomic for us. Tuning into the physical messages your body sends you is so important in improving your overall health, and reducing any risk of long-term health issues. 

Final thoughts...

Managing ‘work’ and ‘life’ together as 1 intertwined beast can be challenging, especially when we can’t just “leave the office” and turn work off. These techniques have allowed me to be more productive during my Zoom calls, and be more present in every day life. 

How else do you disconnect from your work day? Let me know by leaving a comment! 

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