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Unplugging from Work: 4 Tips to Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Raise your hand if you never think about the office and the work you need to accomplish while at home.

Anyone?

If you raised your hand, I want to meet you, because you’re clearly doing something right.

The truth is that most of us who work — especially in an office setting — have a difficult time at home refraining from thinking about the tasks we need to finish at work (or that upcoming meeting or presentation taking place next week).

Here are four actions you can take today to help you unplug from the office while at home and begin your journey toward maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Four Ways to Unplug from Work While at Home

1. Actually Leave the Office

It’s 5:00 p.m. and time to leave the office, but there’s just one little thing you want to finish up before you take off.

This will only take 10 minutes, you say to yourself.

Before you know it, it’s 6:30 p.m., and that extra 10 minutes has turned into more than an hour of work.

Can you relate? Sometimes finishing up little tasks is necessary, but too often, those little tasks turn into bigger tasks.  

There will always be more work to do, but at some point, you need to decide when it’s okay to leave that work for tomorrow.

While working long hours is inevitable once in a while, be cautious about partaking in long work days on a regular basis. Long work hours can actually be dangerous for your health.

In fact, a recent study found that long work hours increase your chance of an early death by 20 percent. Yikes.

If you find yourself consistently staying late to finish up work, try setting an alarm on your email or phone at a certain time each day. This will remind you that it’s time to go home, forcing you to assess if the work you are doing can be finished up the following day.

2. Quit Responding to Non-Emergency Emails after Business Hours

Even if you physically leave the office, you may not actually escape your work if you still have access to your work email on your smartphone or laptop.

I just want to quickly check if this person responded to my email, you reason.

At home, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of “just checking” your email. But “just checking” can easily turn into “responding” if you’re not careful.

Don’t respond if the issue or topic is a non-emergency. Period. Responding to work emails after business hours is dangerous for everyone.

Responding to email after business hours can give people the impression that you’re available to them whenever they need you. Suddenly, the other person has the power over you, causing you to essentially be tied to your mobile device at all times.

Setting email boundaries may be tough, but it's necessary if you want to truly unplug from work while at home. Even if you don’t actually respond to work emails, checking them consistently after business hours causes you to at least think about work, which isn't always healthy when you're trying to relax.

To set email boundaries, try informing your coworkers and clients that they should contact you via phone call if there is a true work emergency that needs to be addressed immediately.

By eliminating the fear that you will miss a work emergency, you'll be able to feel more comfortable with checking your email only during the workday.

3. Participate in an Activity After Work

One reason people may have a difficult time unplugging from work while at home is that they don’t have anything to physically pull them away.

Even though many people “unwind” while watching television at night, they aren’t actually unwinding because they are checking their email during commercials, editing their presentation notes, or writing down points to bring up at the next staff meeting.

This type of “unwinding” isn’t truly effective.

Instead of watching TV after a long day at the office, try participating in some type of physical activity that will get you moving while allowing you to escape your work.

Go for a run or bike ride, play a game of catch with your child, or walk your dog. Just do something.

Healthy Work-Life Balance

4. Efficiently “Plug In” in Order to “Unplug”

If you want to be able to truly unplug from work while at home, you have to make the most out of the times you are plugged in.

Our world today is full of distractions. Catching up with your coworkers, attending meetings, and checking your social media accounts are just a few of things that can interrupt your workday.

As best you can, try to eliminate distractions at work so that you can perform your job as efficiently as possible.

At 9 Clouds, we have a saying called “eat your frogs.” The story behind this phrase says that if the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is eat a live frog, nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day.

How does this translate to your workday? Figure out the tasks that are the most difficult or time consuming to accomplish, and do those first.

If you work on those tasks at the beginning of your workday, you will have more momentum and energy for the rest of the day. But if you wait and procrastinate on accomplishing those tasks, your energy will be drained — causing you to procrastinate even more.

By eating your frogs early on, you’ll likely be more productive, thus making the most of the time you are plugged in at work.

Balance, Balance, Balance

You’ve heard it before — life is all about balance.

Remaining motivated at work while enjoying pure, unplugged time from the office is a hard balance to find, and it will always require effort.

Plus, the right work-life balance differs for everyone. What works for one person may not work for another.

To help you strike the right balance, enlist an accountability partner who will check up on you during your journey. Begin with small, achievable goals that will bring you one step closer to your ultimate goal of achieving a healthy work-life balance.

LEARN MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE