Many of us are over-achievers, but there can be a downside to all that striving. We have a tough time maintaining boundaries between our professional and personal lives. Work seeps into our off-hours, and working from home is further blurring these already fuzzy boundaries.
An Atlassian survey provides proof of this blurring: remote professionals work longer hours, take fewer breaks, and think more about work during off-hours. More than half of the survey participants said it’s harder to maintain work-life boundaries when working from home.
Why Work-Life Boundaries Are Eroding in the Remote Workplace
Since you’re no longer physically visible to your supervisor and co-workers in an office, you compensate by being overly responsive to emails and messages. Isolated at home, you have a heightened need to be “in the know,” so you click away to stay informed.
You end up working longer hours because you’re continually distracted by emails and notifications during the day. You’re busy but not productive. You find it difficult to set aside time for deep work. You might also have distractions at home: kids, pets, housemates, or chores.
Even when the workday is theoretically over, your phone, tablet, and laptop—essentially, your office—is always at hand.
What is a Shutdown Ritual & How Does it Help?
If your work-life boundaries need firming up, the first step is to establish a shutdown ritual. A shutdown ritual is a series of actions you take at the end of the workday to erect a mental boundary between your work and personal lives.
During the shutdown ritual, you review your day’s work and identify unfinished tasks. After you put these tasks on tomorrow’s list, you can release these responsibilities from your mind.
At shutdown, it’s time to turn off your work brain and release it from duty. However, take comfort knowing your brain will continue to work in the background, mulling over unresolved issues subconsciously. If you give it proper rest, it’s more likely to surprise you with an “aha” moment in the shower tomorrow morning.
A shutdown ritual gives closure to the workday. You feel ready to leave work behind where it belongs—at work, even if “at work” means a table on the other side of the room. Now, you can be more present at home or wherever you’re spending the evening.
Like any ritual, a shutdown process can become an anchor for other habits. If you’ve been trying to establish a good habit, like going for a run or taking an online yoga class, try habit stacking. Let your shutdown ritual be the cue for changing into workout clothes—another step in the transition from work life to personal life.
How to Build a Shutdown Ritual into Your Workday
Like any habit, you need a cue for a shutdown ritual—one you define in advance and adhere to with very few exceptions. Ideally, this cue is a specific time of the day, give or take 15 minutes.
When it’s shutdown time, go through the steps of your ritual, for example:
- Check email one last time. Set a timer so you don’t get carried away.
- Review your calendar for tomorrow.
- Update your to-do list for tomorrow and beyond.
- Close everything on your work laptop. Put it to sleep. If you need your laptop for personal reasons, close all work apps and tabs, and turn off email and message notifications from platforms like Teams, Asana, and Slack.
- Mute or turn off those same notifications on your phone and tablet.
- Tidy up your work area.
- Think about what you want to do with your evening if you haven’t already.
- Finally, make it official by saying out loud, “I’m done with work today,” or “Shutdown complete.”
You could also mark the end of your workday and the return to your personal life with a new ritual, for example, a walk, exercise session, yoga practice, meditation, household chore, calling or Zooming with a friend, or a high-five or dance party with your kids.
A shutdown ritual creates a separation and transition between work and your life. You bring your best self to work and home when you choose to be fully present for work during work hours and for yourself and your loved ones during off-hours. If your team needs help creating or maintaining work-life boundaries and shutdown rituals, contact us for ways; we can help.