Almost 3 in 10 advisers said in our latest Wellbeing Index that they struggled to switch off from work often or all the time, and 37% said they experienced this sometimes. With the demands advisers experience, it is understandable that many people find it difficult to leave work behind out of hours. There are some techniques you can use to help yourself switch off, which we have divided into general tips and those specific to the difficulties of working from home.

Switching off outside of working hours

  • Define your boundaries

Be clear with yourself what work and not-work looks like. For example, what are the hours of your work? If you feel you need to work beyond those hours, how many hours or days a week will be your limit? When you’re working, are you in a specific place, wearing particular clothes, in a particular mindset? And how does that change when you’re not working? Do you check your work email when you’re not working, and are you comfortable with your answer? Being clear with yourself what not being at work involves means you will be better able to enforce that boundary and switch off effectively.

  • Write your to-do list at the end of the day

It is common to worry in the evening about what awaits you on the next working day. Writing your to-do list for the next day can be a good way to wrap up each evening, and means you already know what you have planned for the day so you are less likely to spend time out of work mentally organising it. This small habit can make it easier to set a boundary between work and home and get into a ‘home’ mindset.      

  • Have a notepad

In a similar vein, if you find that your brain is often working overtime, even if you aren’t, you might benefit from making a note of the thought and then distracting yourself, so you know you won’t forget but can move away from the thing you are worried about. How you do this is up to you – it may be that a note on your phone is most useful, or you may prefer to keep a notepad and pen to hand. This latter is particularly useful if you find struggling to switch off interferes with your sleep, as it avoids using screens when you are trying to sleep.

  • Manage your technology

Technology can be an enemy of switching off; it is all too easy to check emails or messages out of hours if work is accessible from a smartphone, while blue light from screens is generally accepted to impact sleep, which can make it harder to effectively recharge. You can challenge this by limiting your ability to access or be unnecessarily contacted by work through your phone outside of working hours, and finding a balance that suits you around screen use.

  • Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a general term for a range of practices that encourage staying in the here and now, and can help you to manage stress and anxiety. Mindfulness practices can help you recentre, and help you minimise thoughts about work when you are trying to switch off. You can find a wide range of mindfulness resources on our Mindfulness Break e-learning module.



Switching off when working from home

Creating a work/home divide is difficult, and while you may well have a range of techniques in place, it is worth reviewing this periodically to ensure whether there’s anything further to do to make your life easier.

  • Mark a change

Even if it’s something as simple as committing to starting to cook dinner at 6 o’clock, going for a walk, or watching an early evening quiz show, having something that you do to signify a shift from work to home can be a good way create a divide in a home office. It can give you something else to think about or something to look forward to so your mind doesn’t linger on work.

  • Emphasise the separation

Work stations can be an act of compromise when working from home, but it is important to try and find ways to get work out of your home space at the end of the day. It might be that you can close the door on a spare room or home office, but if your desk is in a room you use outside of work, you may need to be more creative. Putting your laptop and paperwork in a drawer or cupboard, or even covering it with a sheet, can be a way to put work out of sight and out of mind. If you sit at the dining table for work, try to sit in a different dining chair when you’re eating. Any small act of separation can help you create a stronger mental divide between work and home to help you switch off.

  • Create a routine

Many of us will benefit from habit management and habit-building. If you are struggling to switch off, it may be because habits and patterns have formed that make it more difficult to go into ‘home’ mode after work. Marking a change and emphasising a separation as above is even more effective when it forms part of a routine. What this looks like will be different for everyone, but having a sense of what the hour or so after work should look like, and making a point to keep to that as often as possible, will make it easier to turn off the computer and the work brain alike.

  • Have a plan

Similar to the above, knowing what you will do to switch off can help you actually do it. Your evening and weekend plans might be really detailed, or mostly involve sitting on the sofa, but knowing what you’re going to do, and using mindful techniques to commit to doing it in the moment, will help you switch off.

  • Buddy up

If you’re struggling to switch off – whether in the long term or because you’re having a particularly difficult few days – it may help to enlist allies to help you. This may be another colleague who you make a packing-up agreement with, someone in your home checking that you’re switching your computer off, or a friend checking in with a phone call to help you both take your mind off work shortly after you finish.