25th March 2021

Top tips to switch off from work

Whether you are working in an office or have had to adapt to working from home during the pandemic, switching off from your work can sometimes be very difficult. In an ‘always-on’ world, many of us are in constant connection with our work, morning, noon and night – even looking at our emails or answering our calls as we settle down to watch our favourite TV show.

The extent of this problem has been revealed in a study by the health insurance provider Aviva. According to their study, of 2,000 UK workers, almost half say they never fully switch off from work, with 70% admitting to checking emails and messages outside of work hours.

The research – which saw the workers answer surveys in February and August 2020 – also found that the number of people who were “completely happy” at work had fallen significantly in that period (from 20% to 13%) and the number of people who ranked their mental health between “very bad” and “fair” had risen by 5% (from 38% to 43%).

So, how can you help yourself switch off from work?

Create a routine

No matter where you are working, having a routine can provide more benefits than you think according to a study in the US. The study found that having a routine is linked to improvements in mood and cognitive functioning as well as a decreased likelihood of developing major depression and bipolar disorder.

So, if you are homeworking make sure you separate your work and personal space. As a minimum, try and put your laptop away at the end of the workday to create a boundary, make sure you schedule in breaks and don’t spend too long in front of a screen.

If you are returning to the office getting into an office routine again is vitally important.  Before Covid many of us would get into the office roughly the same time everyday, have a coffee break at the same time, everyday and probably have lunch at the same time, everyday.  It’s important therefore you try and get yourself back to a similar routine to get you focused and productive and to ensure you take those vital breaks.

Over the next few months, many of us will probably be doing a more hybrid approach to working i.e half the time working from home and half the time working in the office.  But it’s important to try and adopt a similar routine for both home-working and office-working.  This means starting work at the same time everyday, no matter where you’re working, having lunch at the same time and so on.  This will help you stay as productive and focused as possible during the working week as you juggle between working environments.

Move it!

Exercise is vital for both your physical and mental health, with The Lancet Psychiatry study from the US proving that those who exercise have fewer days of poor mental health than individuals who don’t exercise. When working remotely, you could use the time you would usually have spent on your daily commute to go for a quick walk. A study by the Boston University School of Medicine (B.U.S.M) found that just 20 minutes a day getting your heart pumping and your body moving can improve your cognitive function.

If you are working from an office maybe get off the train, tube or bus a few stops before your usually stop to add in a few extra steps to your day.  And likewise, after a productive day in the office, it’s often difficult to find time to exercise afterwards, so again try to walk to the next stop before your regular stop.

Take up a hobby

Learning to play a musical instrument, painting, DIY, gardening or taking up a new sport can be a great way to get your mind off work.

Research has shown that people with hobbies rarely suffer from stress, depression or low moods and so it is vital for our mental health that we find activities that will get us out, make us feel happier and more relaxed.

So, go on, make this year the year you learn something new and focus on something creative to help switch off.

Take a screen break

A 2017 study of U.S. adults found spending six hours or more a day watching TV or using computers was associated with a higher risk for depression. A study by Vision Direct and conducted by OnePoll.com, found British adult spends the equivalent of 34 years of their life staring at screens – but only half of that time is ‘productive’.

Although there is no fixed time between breaks or length of breaks stated in the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, the regulations do suggest that breaks should be ‘periodically’ taken.

As a minimum guideline, it’s suggested at least five minutes in every hour should be spent away from the screen, it’s also important to make sure you change posture regularly; doing some simple stretching exercises at your desk can be very useful too. For your eyes, try the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look up from your screen at something about 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. This gives the muscles in your eyes a chance to relax.

Make sleep a priority

There’s no doubt about it, if we don’t get enough sleep life is pretty tough. The amount of sleep each adult needs varies, but for most adults this is between seven and nine hours. What matters is that you find out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it.

After several sleepless nights, the mental effects become worse. Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You’ll start to feel down, and you may fall asleep during the day. To help make sure you prioritise yourself and get into a bedtime routine:

  • Try having a bath
  • Don’t drink alcohol too close to bedtime (We know it’s hard but try!)
  • Get into your pyjamas, banish your mobile and read a book

Whatever it is, find something that works for you and make it a priority.