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by Louise Deverell-Smith

5 ways to switch off as a flex worker; and why you should.

Trouble being able to switch off when working from home? You’re not alone. Here are some tips on how…

As we well know at Daisy Chain, flexible working can be a great benefit. From allowing parents more time with their kids, to increasing disabled accessibility to positions in the office, to just allowing your life to shape your work, and not the other way around, there are so many benefits.

That is not to say, however, that there are no hurdles associated with working from home.

A big one and one I’m sure many people have experienced over the last two years is how difficult it can be to switch off. Your space is exactly the same, maybe working from your bedroom, (tip #1? Avoid working in your bedroom if you can) and the only difference is mental. You’re “off-the-clock” in theory, but work isn’t far off physically, so it doesn’t feel that way, mentally.

 

  1. Set expectations with your clients and colleagues.  Add an email signature to your emails which states you work flexibly and therefore don’t expect an immediate reply from me and I don’t expect one from you.  This then makes you less compelled to reply to people at all hours of the day, and lets you mentally switch off. As a simple, the one we use at Daisy Chain is
    **I’m all about the flex so I’m sending this message now because it’s when I’m working.  Please don’t see it and think you have to read, reply or action it outside of your normal working hours**
    But you can go with whatever best suits your company’s culture, and what flex means where you work. We’re big advocates that flexible working isn’t a one size fits all solution, rather it should be bespoke to get the best return on your investment into it. This might feel strange at first, but once the culture is firmly set into people’s minds, their attitudes will change as well.

 

  1. Plan each working day first thing in the morning (starting with the thing you like to do least first). Tick off the things you do and look back at that list at the end of the day so you can visually see what you have accomplished. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t tick everything off, instead look at the things you have ticked off. This will help you keep focused on what tasks need to be accomplished; with a manager looming over your shoulder, or colleagues nearby doing similar tasks, it can be easy to get sidetracked; don’t let it happen, set an agenda. It will also, over time, give you a sense of accomplishment, which can be harder to quantify when working at home. This will help keep you motivated, too.

 

  1. If you are working from home shut down your working area so can visually see that the working day has ended. It doesn’t help if you see your laptop open on the kitchen table for example as it’s easy to just ‘quickly check my emails. If you work from your bedroom, get some space and some distance. If you use a computer for leisure as well as work, power it down completely, when you are done with work and don’t touch your work apps when you next power up. (I have two whole separate browsers for this reason! Chrome is for work, Firefox is for leisure.) Closing off your digital spaces is as important as closing down your physical spaces in an increasingly digital world. Just seeing those workspaces left open can bring up anxiety, and the urge to “just check” which can start a spiral where you are never fully away from work.

 

  1. Never sleep with your phone nearby – you will easily be distracted into checking ‘work stuff’ before you go to sleep and as soon as you start your day when really this is a perfect time to not think about work. Especially early in the day; don’t be tempted to start your workday before it starts. You wouldn’t start writing reports or creating presentations before you get into the office, so don’t do it before you start working. If you have to sleep with your phone nearby, or, again, you use your phone for leisure, try and digitally compartmentalize. For instance, if you manage social media accounts, try and avoid logging in on your phone. That way you can avoid the temptations to worry last thing at night, and check it as soon as you wake up. You need a break, or you’ll burn out, and being able to access all your work information seconds before bed is not conducive to that, so try and avoid it.

 

  1. Always stop working at 5 pm on Friday. Or whatever time your business stops. If you are working with a company in America, say, this might be adjusted slightly, but always have a defined end. The more definition you can put into your workweek as a flexible worker the better. Flexible working is inherently slightly uncertain with working hours unless you give it a certainty. Coordinate with managers and colleagues so that all the work still gets done, but no one is in the office 24/7, so don’t be working from home 24/7! It’s often seen as something of a tradeoff we must accept with flexible work, that flexibility implies your working less hard hour to hour, so you have to make up with more hours. Don’t accept this paradigm. If you’re working as hard as you did in the office, you should be working as long. Set your time, and stick to it as best you can. For every time you work later than you expected, think about whether or not you’d be expected to do this in the office.

 

  1. Remember to cherish your weekends and everything can wait until Monday – nothing gets resolved over a weekend! This is as true at the office as it is when you’re working from home. Unless you are working in a position where you’d be expected to come in on the weekend to resolve a crisis (and if you are, I’m sure this isn’t a regular occurrence), it can probably wait. This is important for the same reasons we’ve written about above; your personal time becomes all the more vital to protect when you don’t have any physical distance from work. This is hard, but it’s also hard in the office. If you properly disconnect on the Friday, this will become easier, but it also means having something worthwhile to do on the weekends so your mind doesn’t wander back. Whatever that means for you, going to see friends, hobbies, classes, spending time with loved ones, live your weekends without thinking about work as best you can. It can almost certainly wait til Monday.

 

  1. Have an evening routine. Just like how you have a set of things you do in the morning to get ready for work, make some rituals up to distance yourself from it after. For some people that’s hitting the gym, others it’s going for a nice calm walk. It doesn’t matter what it is, really; just that you have something to do that sets you into a different headspace. When you were in the office, this would usually be contained in your commute home, maybe stopping at the shops to grab dinner. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, don’t feel the need to take an impromptu trip to the Cotswolds, just give yourself some space to switch off.

 

We know that one of the biggest downsides that can come from working from home is the inability to switch off at the end of the day. It doesn’t need to be this way, and hopefully, there are some tips here to help. The biggest thing you can do though, is have an open and frank discussi0n with your manager. Hopefully, you’ll work at a place that understands; if you don’t, and you’d like to, we have plenty of employers available on our website eager to support your flexible working journey.

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