You expect your team to work hard, work smart, and enjoy their work through the week. But when somebody in your crew doesn’t know how to relax after work, you are unlikely to see the best of them in the office.
An employee that continues to think about work even when they’re ‘off the clock’ may sound ideal, but the truth is their productivity and well-being may suffer. We need downtime. We need distance and objectivity. We also need our health.
“Inadequate psychological recovery, or poor disengagement from work, is associated with a range of health problems,” as Professor Mark Cropley, a psychologist at the University of Surrey, told The Telegraph, “including cardiovascular disease, fatigue, negative mood, and sleep disturbance.”
Unfortunately, it’s harder than ever to switch off that inner work voice – particularly since it is often prompted by an outer cue, such as smartphone notifications that continue through the evenings and weekends. As an HR pro, how can you facilitate a culture of ‘switching off’ – not just devices but that inner work voice – in your office?
The shutting-down routine
It may sound odd, but people don’t know how to work.
They know how to get a certain set of tasks done to achieve their goals. But in terms of ergonomics, communication, and routine, they tend to make it up as they go along.
This is why it is worth setting up a session to encourage your employees to unwind properly. It can be arranged around another training session, or as part of the onboarding process.
But what should you tell them? Well, it’s all about shutting down at the end of the day. Encourage your team to take their time to leave work, so as to leave work properly.
Shortly before the end of their workday, they should create an ‘exit list’ of things they need to do the next day. They might use an app, a Word doc, or a Post-It. The point is to externalize that to-do list so that it doesn’t spin around their head the whole evening.
Next is to start shutting down the tech. If they expect non-urgent emails to arrive over the evening or weekend, encourage them to set up an out-of-work auto-reply so they’re not worried about having to acknowledge each message as it comes in. Then they should switch off the notifications on their phone for anything work-related.
And finally, click that little ‘x’ on each browser tab for the satisfaction of closing down their day. Computers should be shut down properly, whatever the inconvenience of having to wait for them to boot the next day. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the electricity bill, and it’s good for emotional closure.
Each employee’s exit routine from here may depend on their personal preferences and situation. But here are some good ideas to integrate into an individual’s departure from the office:
- Get a change of shoes and/or clothes for the journey home (or at least change the moment they arrive home).
- Make a ‘meaningful commute’ by walking or cycling, or taking a pleasant but slower route, to get home. Another option is to arrange a post-work coffee with a friend.
- Exercise before relaxing in the evening.
- Make a plan in the morning for what to do in the evening so as to avoid getting stuck on the couch – or in late-night work emails.
Learning to really leave work at leaving time helps employees to be happy, healthy, and more productive. Guide your colleagues to relax properly during their downtime, and you will soon see the benefits around the workplace.
About the author: John Cole writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.