5 ways to leave work at work

“I’ll just check my emails.” How often have you been drawn to your phone’s inbox one last time before going to bed – or maybe even in bed - only to read something that keeps you up half the night, brain whirring?

Maintaining a work/life balance can be tricky at the best of times, but allowing your work to follow you home every day and weekend is a damaging habit that may see you being less rather than more productive in the long run.

So, with work simply the touch of a button away on your phone, how do you switch everything off when you leave the office and not bring your work home? Here are five steps.

1. Set clear boundaries

Start by accepting that the to-do list may never be done, and instead draw a line when you leave work. How?

  • As difficult as it may be with work so easily accessible on your phone or laptop, leave your work behind when you leave the office – even if your office is at home.

  • Before leaving work for the day make a list of tasks to do tomorrow, and vow to leave it behind on your desk rather than in your head.

2. Manage expectations

Does your job require you to be available around the clock? Discuss options with your boss, such as an agreement that only truly urgent after-hours business will be conveyed to you by phone, not email, to stop you being sucked back into that inbox.

  • Organise blocks of time when you do not need to be available because being on-call every day of the year is simply unrealistic and  unhealthy. This may be a case of re-setting expectations of both yourself and your employer.

  • Are you an employer? Lead by example and encourage your staff to separate home and work life. That way, you might be forced to do the same thing too.

3. Hide the phone

Is the pull of the email inbox just too strong? Consider using a personal phone and laptop after hours which does not have your work emails on it.

Either leave the devices with your work email on them at work, or if that is not practical, store them in a room away from where you spend your down time.

4. Distract yourself

Switching off the phone is one thing, but switching off your brain from work is an entirely different matter. Are you still failing to let go of work long after the day’s ended? Try these options:

  • Join an activity or take up a hobby to take your mind off things. Having somewhere to go after work like yoga, the gym or an art class gets you away from your phone and engages your brain in a different way, which will help move your mindset to a less work-centred place.

  • Do you have family commitments? Great! Make picking up the kids a priority and lock your phone in the car while you take them to the playground.

  • If your commute is too short to separate your mind from work, then walk or bike home. You also get exercise as an added bonus.

5. Work to your strengths

Depending on your job and how you like to work, allowing yourself to be more flexible in your day could actually make it easier for you to switch off from work during your down time.

  • Are you a night owl? Use your most productive hours to work, leaving the morning for “you” time. Or, take time out in the middle of the day to disconnect from  your phone.

  • Do you love to organise and prefer set work time boundaries? Create a weekly plan for yourself that includes time away from work – and stick to it.

  • Give yourself time to adjust to switching off and don’t beat yourself up if you tapped into the email inbox at 11pm last Wednesday night. As your teacher always said, try to do better next time.

  • Taking a holiday far, far away from work might just be what you need to kick off your new work/life balance intentions. Book your break and set a plan for when you get home.

Still struggling? Seek support from your employer or a professional coach. After all, there’s no benefit in burning out.