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5 Ways to End Your Work Day When You Never Left the House

How remote workers can transition from having a job to having a life.

Image by Vinzent Weinbeer from Pixabay
Source: Image by Vinzent Weinbeer from Pixabay

If you are lucky enough to have a job you can do from home, you have probably established a workday routine. You have a designated space, a good Internet connection, devices charged and ready, and if you are lucky, a private space respectable enough to ditch the visually unsteady virtual background as you “Zoom” through your daily teleconferences.

But when does your workday end? Ironically, some teleworkers, especially those who are new to the work-from-home lifestyle, have developed an unanticipated problem: They don’t know when to quit. Some remote workers report actually working more hours because without a commute, or physical distance separating business from pleasure, there can be a temptation to just keep going. These teleworkers have trouble “clocking out” at the end of the day because the usual workplace cues have been replaced with the familiar surroundings of home.

Thankfully, for the sake of your mental health and family relationships, there are ways to “log out” at the end of the day, even when you are working from home.

Shutdown Rituals

Steve Annear, writing for the Boston Globe, gives some examples of how simple, in-home rituals can signify the end of the workday.[i] Because not everyone lives in a home big enough to have a private home office, he cites an example of a woman living in a one-bedroom apartment who literally scoots back and forth on a couch to signify work versus relaxation, never sitting in the middle. Sounds simple, yet many people need to be intentional about what Annear refers to as “shutdown rituals” to officially end the workday, which he acknowledges are important to maintain a healthy work-life balance during these unusual times.

Why are such rituals important? He quotes Laura Dudley, a behavior analyst and associate clinical professor in applied psychology at Northeastern University, who explains the importance of rituals at the end of the workday, noting that “many of us are working in the same space where we are then spending time unwinding,” and any behavior that signals that shift between the two phases of the day can be helpful. She agrees that “if that’s moving two couch cushions over, so be it.”

Annear cites other examples of shutdown rituals as well, with a common theme: intentionally disconnecting from professional life and re-engaging in personal life.

5 Decompression Tips

With a focus on making the transition from professional to personal, here are five ideas about how to successfully use shutdown routines to end the teleworking day.

  1. Actively Disengage. In the same way that people gather things together to leave the workplace, grabbing keys, a jacket, or performing other rituals to close up shop, you can do the same thing at home. The trick is performing intentional behavior to signal the transition, such as closing your laptop, clearing your “desk” (especially if it is the dining room table), and leaving the room.
  2. Unplug and Recharge. Whether closing your laptop prompts opening a bottle of sparkling water (or wine) or the front door for a walk, many people find clocking out is easier when it involves an active change of behavior.
  3. Wardrobe Change. This technique, one that writer Terri Cettina, in discussing the art of “coming home from the home office” refers to as pulling a “Fred Rogers,” refers to the routine Mr. Rogers went through as he changed from a jacket and dress shoes to his characteristic sweater and sneakers when he got home.[ii] If you have been working all day in your pajamas (not a great idea from a productivity standpoint, especially with the increasing requirement of daily Zoom calls), change (into) clothes for after-work activities, whether you will be taking a Jacuzzi in the backyard or a walk in the park.
  4. Change Your Scenery. Relocate, even if means to a different part of the same room. Putting work away (not just pushing it aside) is also important to enjoy the evening, because out of sight is out of mind.
  5. Unplugging Is Easier With Good Company. Teleworkers admit it is easier to shut down at the end of the day with the support of family, eager to spend quality time relaxing and having fun. Teleworkers who live alone can schedule social time with friends, whether that means going out or going online. The mental break provides a healthy separation between work and life.

Whatever routine your choose, rituals and behaviors signaling the end of the workday can facilitate the transition from having a job to having a life.




More from Wendy L. Patrick, J.D., Ph.D.
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