Disconnecting from work when working remotely 🙇

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

At the start of 2020, we conducted a remote work survey and found that 44% of respondents worked more than 40 hours a week. Just a few months back, we did another survey on the sudden remoteness situation and 32% of the 892 respondents said they were working longer hours than before. Another 33% said their biggest challenge was to separate work and personal life.

Separating work and personal life has become such a pertinent problem that people are questioning if they are working from home or living at work. So I decided to take this up as our discussion point this week and share simple, practical & effective tips on how to unplug from work and get appropriate rest.

I was motivated to take up this topic by Lindsay’s latest post and the discussion that ensued. I have also used Scott’s titbits on this, which he’s shared across posts.

Just before you delve in, I have a more detailed version of the post here. For the sake of brevity, I have only included the most important parts here.

How to Disconnect from Work when Working Remotely

Set physical boundaries

There’s no second opinion to having a dedicated space at home where you work from. In addition, it helps to clear your desk before you start working and after you finish. This gets you in the right mental space to plug in and unplug from work.

Scott pointed out a nice hack if it’s tough for you to have a dedicated space/ room for work. You can instead have a ‘work basket’ where you put everything related to work e.g. laptop, work diary etc.

Set an attainable start and end time. Set a ‘No work’ time range.

Developing a work routine and sticking to a daily schedule (with a start and end time) will help you feel less stressed about work. No one’s forcing you to align your work timings by the clock needle. Have a generous buffer if you need. For example, your work day could start from 8 to 10 AM and go on till 6 to 8 PM.

Alternatively, you can mark a ‘No Work’ time range, say from 8PM to 8AM. No matter what, you don’t take up work during this period.

Finally, it is super important to convey this to your team. As much as they should know when you are working and available, they should also know when you aren’t available.

Have a ‘Work is Over’ ritual

Make sure to explicitly call it a day when you are done. Lindsay rightly points out that you need to remind yourself that your work day is over. For that, you could have a ‘Work is Over’ mantra or slogan and you can call it out loud at the end of each working day.

Scott adds to it saying, “Rituals are important to create boundaries. For example, I have taken to starting every work week with a walk. I also end each work week with a walk. It’s a nice, solid reminder that reminds me there’s a rhythm to the work week.”

Make restarting work difficult

To resist the temptation to restart work, make it super difficult to get back to work when you are in your ‘No Work’ time range. Turn off your computer, pack your stuff and put it in a closet/ basket, even put your phone on airplane mode if possible.

It is just a matter of habit. Once you come to realise that work isn’t possible beyond your usual work hours, you would naturally resist the temptation to do it in the first place.

Engage in a hobby or passion outside of work

This is probably the best way to unplug from work and de-stress yourself. If you are passionate about something, you would naturally look forward to it after work.

For example, if you are a fitness enthusiast, you would be excited for your evening workout session post work. To disengage from work, you need to find something else that you can engage yourself in.

Decompress or fake commute to detach from work thoughts

Kevin shared an interesting technique he uses to wrap up work. He calls it the fake commute, which takes ~30 minutes. These are the 3 steps he does daily while wrapping up work -

  1. 10-15 minutes - Finishing up the current task and consciously not doing a deep dive into any issue.

  2. 5 minutes - Notes for the next day on where to start and any other context.

  3. 10-15 minutes - A mindfulness exercise to clear the mind.

Here's what our users had to say:

  • Cathy T said "Great post, Hrishikesh. I have read through the other posts you’ve referred and this serves as a good summary. I am particularly intrigued by the couple of surveys you shared - great work there!"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Thanks Cathy - glad you enjoyed reading it!"

  • Alda Lima said "Really enjoyed the “Have a ‘Work is Over’ ritual” idea. I’m going to think of something. To me, this usually means some exercise (right now, due to Covid, a few minutes on the elliptical machine - which I finally got after 4 months not walking anywhere - and sometimes some stretching and yoga poses), a shower, and then dinner, but I still catch myself reading emails or working a little bit afterward. A ritual along the lines of a mantra could work :)"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "That’s quite cool Alda! Same here - I try to push myself so much to avoid reading emails on phone post shutting my laptop but I am often unsuccessful :( I have been able to avoid work on Sundays entirely though. Not even emails or chat - so that’s an achievement! P.S: I borrowed the ‘work is over’ mantra/ slogan from Lindsay’s (@lindsayalissa) post, so we have her to thank for sharing this titbit :)"

  • Scott Dawson said "Ellipticals are awesome! We bought ours 17 years ago. It’s never required any maintenance and still is a staple of our fitness, mostly on rainy or cold days."

  • Alda Lima said "It’s awesome that you’re managing to avoid work completely on Sundays! A major goal on my list (I add Saturdays to it when I’m thinking big lol). I read @lindsayalissa post, great tips, and I especially liked the visualizing work stress in a jar to pick up again at a later time!"

  • Lindsay King said "Yes, it’s kind of silly, but it works especially well if I’m stuck in a mental loop where I can’t stop thinking about my to-do list. A question for you: do you usually plan out your weekends? I’ve lately been having trouble planning because activities are limited during the pandemic, but I’ve noticed that I’m much better about taking the weekend off if I have other non-work activities to look forward to."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Oh yes, absolutely. I have a separate section in my Notion ToDo where I keep listing through the week activities I want to do on the coming Sunday. I often put in simple things like experimenting with a cooking or watching a really good movie. Not that I am able to do all of it but it surely keeps my mind off work. I’ve noticed that I’m much better about taking the weekend off if I have other non-work activities to look forward to. Absolutely works for me too!"

  • Lindsay King said "Three cheers to simple things!"

  • Alda Lima said "I feel you on the can’t stop thinking about a to-do list. I don’t plan my weekends. Like you said, due to the pandemic it’s been a lot harder to plan activities (and most importantly, outside). But that’s a great idea about scheduling a non-work activity for the weekend — something different from no-work activities I already try to do during the week…"

  • Lindsay King said "Basically, I plan “making pancakes” as a legit activity. Haha."

  • Alda Lima said "Hahaha indeed it is! And more legit than a lot of things we have to do out there :D"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Haha, that’s great. I still don’t have the luxury to think of adding Saturdays since we’re little early in our startup journey to afford time off on both days ;)"

  • Scott Dawson said "The past few Sundays I’ve managed to leave my phone mostly in my bedroom, spending most of my day outside or out with my wife. It’s SO relaxing!"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "That’s really nice - no digital device weekends :-)"

  • Alda Lima said "That’s great to know it can last that long! It has been immensely helpful :)"

  • Scott Dawson said "Another ritual that we’ve taken to (and there are NA versions of this, for sure) is to have a post-work drink. A Twitter friend of mine turned me on to this, and having a glass of red wine after work with my wife is a really nice transition point to family dinner and post-dinner recreation (badminton, a show, a game, or simply reading)."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "That seems quite nice and relaxing. I myself like to watch a show or read something post dinner but see myself getting carried away at times. It gets late and disturbs my schedule, so I am a little conscious in the things I pick up after dinner or late night. Sometimes I just prefer relaxing in my balcony chatting with my wife - helps clear my head."

  • Scott Dawson said "We’ve kept a pretty strict sleep/wake routine to stay on schedule, actually. Shortly after 9 we’re down for the count, and we wake up at 5 every day to start off with reading and coffee. The kids might think it lame, but I’m finding it downright relaxing."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Wow, I have been wishing to follow that kind of a schedule since forever. I used to be an early riser back in college days but now, any time between 6 to 7 has become a reality."

  • Jane Geddes said "It's getting dark early now, but getting outside and walking makes a good "commute" too :)"