Dressing casually (or not removing pyjamas at all), skipping the daily commute, saving money on buying lunches: remote working does come with some brilliant benefits.
However, if you’re a home-based freelancer or one of the millions currently working from home due to lockdowns or a disrupted workplace, you may have already realised that maintaining a healthy work/life balance can be difficult. Especially when the line between the personal and professional has become more blurred than ever.
Here are 8 of the top tips that I’ve implemented in my own business for being able to switch off once the clock strikes 5pm(ish).
#1. Set a routine and stick to it
If you haven’t already got into a daily working from home routine, it’s not too late to get into one and stick to it. Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast and start work at the same time every day and set regular hours. Whatever might suit your best. This way, you’re more likely to slow down and wrap up on time. Meaning you’ll be able to switch off and spend your evening however you like.
#2. Create boundaries
Not everyone can have a dedicated office in their home. So many remote workers are having to get creative with their workspace setups. If you have space for a desk in the corner then that’s great, but if you have to work at the dining table you can help yourself to switch off by packing away all your work equipment and tech at the end of the day. You need to create physical, spatial boundaries that keep work and rest spaces as separated as possible. If you can, avoid working in your bedroom, on your sofa or any other place that you associate with resting and relaxing.
#3. Take regular breaks
Regular breaks throughout the day should be part of your routine. Think about it: you wouldn’t sit at your desk in the workplace all day without getting up to stretch your legs or make tea. So why should this be any different at home? For every hour or two of work that you do, take a 10-15 minute breather. Getting outside at lunchtime for a short walk away from the work environment can help you to relax and return invigorated.
#4. Literally, switch off
At the end of the day, physically switch off your computer or laptop. If you have an office at home, close the door behind you. If not, pack all your work things away until tomorrow. You’re much less likely to read emails or want to finish off a project outside work hours if your laptop isn’t switched on and in front of you. Likewise, if you have a work phone then turn it off overnight, or if you have work apps on your personal mobile, turn off notifications outside of working hours. And stash work-related apps a couple of swipes into your phone so they’re not as easily accessible.
#5. Write it all down
If work worries tend to play on your mind throughout the evening, use a ‘brain dump’ activity to get everything you need to remember down on paper. It doesn’t need to be fancy – simply grab a piece of paper and write down everything that you want to be reminded of the following morning.
By writing everything down, you’re less likely to spend the evening fretting about everything you need to do the next day. And you’ll likely feel more organised, too.
#6. Organise after-work activities
In the workplace, things like saying goodbye to colleagues and commuting home help to signal to your brain that the working day is over. At home, these mental signposts are erased. This makes it all too easy to work much later than required. To let your mind and body know that work is over, try having something scheduled each evening. Going for a walk, calling a friend or cooking dinner with a family member. These are just a few examples of activities you could plan in order to help you unplug. By committing to plans – especially ones where others need you to show up – you’re much more likely to switch off successfully and finish work on time.
A wonderful way to clear your mind of the clutter that may have built up from the workday is to take a few minutes (it doesn’t need to be a huge chunk of time!) to sit with yourself, take a few deep breaths and work on relaxing each separate area of your body. Start from the crown of your head and work down to your toes. Focus on this simple activity with all of your mind and let your thoughts take a break from the grind of work.
#8. A change of clothes
Whether or not you’ve managed to get out of your loungewear, changing into a different outfit for the evening is an easy way to mark that transition from work to relaxation. This can be a good time to get into your workout clothes if you have exercise planned. Hot tip: lay out your workout clothes that morning, so you are less likely to skip it.
Or even slipping into something comfier like a pair of PJs may also help you to feel more relaxed.