How to Unplug from Work

November 12, 2021

When working remotely or in a hybrid setting, a very frequent problem is that we never unplug. How often do you turn on the laptop to "finish a few things"?

When working remotely or in a hybrid setting, a very frequent problem is that we never unplug. The widely-accepted but badly-applied practice of over-communciation keeps us on a leash at all times.

Naturally, if you work from home and you hear an email or Slack notification in the other room, you might just go back to "finish a few things". It's somehow accepted and in fact 7 out of 10 Americans, prior to COVID-19, claimed to work at least one full workday, one weekend a month.

So here are a few things we do, to unplug and to start improving your work-life balance. 

Take a Break, For your Team

You're an overachiever, you work a lot, that's fine. What we recommend doing is taking a break, for your team. Be a leader and show it.

Whenever you send an email late,  share files on Slack on weekends, etc you set an example. If you are in a leadership position, you do even more, set this as the norm where people are either directly or subconsciously required to do this.

Talk to your coworkers about the importance of mental health and not burning out. Really make an effort to stay away, block communications, be a human, and think about them first, then you.

I have found myself guilty of doing just that to my team in the past few weeks. I talked to the team about it, acknowledged my lapse in leadership and addressed it by making a big effort to remedy this norm I don't want to set.

Amongst many applications and techniques, we recommend taking a look at Timeular. We'll let the product speak for itself.

Talk to Someone

Roll your eyes. Again.. ok done?

Talking to someone who's an outsider to your life, can have tremendous benefits to your mental health. We always encourage our teams and people to get coaching, therapy, etc. Once you start considering this an investment in your mental health (akin to going to the gym for metabolical health) you'll realise the short and long term value.

The idea is that you will be:1) Stepping away from your work, 2) Digging into other aspects of your personal life which will improve the status of your mental health. You will get an opportunity to really explore your feelings, your thoughts, and certain patterns of behaviour. You may very well learn new coping mechanisms which will allow you to deal with daily stresses in a much more effective way.

Your therapist doesn't HAVE to be there to remind your of your childhood drama. A good therapist will also be a sounding board. When working remotely, even though we have more meetings, can be much more lonely than ever. Having a good therapist in your corner will allow you to verbalise some of the challenges you are facing, and can even provide you with mechanisms to address those challenges. Just having the opportunity to talk to someone who is completely unattached to your life makes an incredible difference.

Whilst we understand that therapy is still somewhat taboo in certain cultures, we cannot recommend it enough. For those who really do not feel comfortable with the idea of having a therapist (something to talk about with your therapist) could look into professional coaching. A coach, not unlike a therapist, will be a strong soundboard, but also someone who can challenge you in different ways.

In either case, find someone that can impartially listen to you.

Remove Slack/Chat from Phone

This is self explanatory. Whatever you use for live communication, be it Slack or Hipchat or whichever the latest version of live-chat is, remove it.

Unfortunately turning off Slack notifications isn't enough.

You think it's drastic? How often do you find yourself "just check if you've missed something because your Slack notifications are off".

Sleep in Different Rooms

When it comes time to sleeping, just put your personal phone and mobile device(s) in another room. If you need the alarm, then set it as far as possible from you in the room.

The value you'll get from this is less notifications throughout the night, less temptation to "just check quickly", and you and your team will sleep and work better.

Screen Time Limits

Most people who made it this far in the blog post might end up associating "Screen Time" with how they control the amount of time their children spend on the phone on certain apps.

Why not do the same thing for yourself? Most likely because it won't work and you'll find yourself adding another hour here and another hour there, but at this point, you'll at least be making a fully conscious decision to move forward. The more self-discipline you have, the more it is likely that this trick will help you a little.

Get Out More

We recommend exercising as a normal part of our onboarding at Clearword. Who doesn't recommend exercising right? For us, it has to be outside the house, a way to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with people around us, whilst improving our general health.

This study shows that too much sitting is just unhealthy and even adults who meet the basic physical activity guidelines but sit for longe periods of time will compromise their metabolic health.

We're not saying Go Out More but Get Out More. Keep in touch with friends, find something to do in your personal time which is not work. This will bring you towards a more healthy work-life balance.

Create a Remote Work Ritual

My ritual is making breakfast, and having coffee. Arguably the coffee part isn't the healthiest but it's my ritual which I respect to the letter. During my breakfast, there is no phone allowed. Making the breakfast and the coffee are processes which calm me down, and mentally prepare me for the day.

A few years ago when beginning the remote work journey, I'd get dressed, leave the house in the morning, walk up and down the street for 10 minutes and get back in the house to start my work day. That was my ritual.

The ritual doesn't have to be long, doesn't have to be complicated. For some, an hour in the gym is a ritual.

Unwind and Prepare Tomorrow Ritual

Set a time in your calendar towards the end your work day. This time is blocked so that you can catch up with emails, perhaps follow up on action items, but more importantly so that you can celebrate the victories of the day, and prepare your top-3 tasks of the next day.

The Top-3 tasks is a system we've developed because our tasks list are practically infinite. You pick the most important 3 items on your list of priorities, add them to the next day's top-3 tasks, and then walk away from your day. Consider it a very simple To-Do list.

Sometimes the tasks do change, but the goal is to train your brain to win. Completing the 3-tasks is a win. Looking at a never-ending list of tasks is demoralizing and consistently reminds you of the things you have to do.

When the day ends, look at the tasks you had to do. The tasks that you ruthlessly prioritized. Celebrate the ones you've finished, and re-asses the ones you haven't.