How to switch off your work mindset

The ‘always on’ mentality is currently an increasing problem in our work culture. This has largely been attributed to advances in communication systems. After all we are now contactable 24/7. Whether that’s through our laptops, our phones or even our smart watches. So mentally switching off from work can be difficult, but this can be even more challenging if we are working at home.

In the workplace, you would typically have breaks throughout the day, to have chats with colleagues, grab a coffee or to take time out for lunch. When you make the shift to remote working these breaks can easily dwindle into non-existence.

There’s also the physical (and psychological) act of leaving the office at the end of the day. This in itself helps to demarcate between work time and down time. It’s not quite the same when your home is your office, and the end of the day is marked by closing a window on your laptop!

So although switching into gear for work can be tricky when you’re working at home, one of the biggest issues for remote workers is actually being able to switch off from work.

Here are a few key strategies to help you to stop your work from becoming all consuming. That way you’ll have even more mental capacity and energy to perform well at work, and in other areas of your life. 

Schedule time out – ‘Slogging’ is ineffective

Make yourself have breaks. It’s too easy to end up making a coffee and returning to your laptop and then doing the same with your lunch. Before you know it, you’ve been sat in the same position for hours, staring at your screen.

Schedule yourself screen-free breaks and ideally change your environment regularly throughout the day.

If you can, get some fresh air. If you can’t, go into a different room. If you can’t do that, go to a different position in the same room. If you can’t do that, at least close your screens and do something different for a while!

Clocking off – Set boundaries for work related activities

Decide when you are going to finish work, and do exactly that.

Your down time is precious for your wellbeing. You need time to recharge. You need time for your friends and family. You need time for you!

So finish work, put your laptop and files away (ideally out of sight) and enjoy your down time.

Unless you are on an urgent call basis, do not be tempted to answer emails or messages in the evenings. It soon becomes a habit, and other people also get used to being able to contact you out of hours. One way to help with this is to close work related windows on your laptop in the evenings, and switch off your email notifications.

Create a psychological ‘buffer’ between work and home

We can often fall into the habit of hurtling from one thing to the next without giving our mind time to adjust. Doing an activity that acts as a psychological buffer helps you to switch mode. You can then be at your best for whatever’s next on the agenda.

In the same way that the visualisation exercise in the morning helps you to focus on work, the ‘buffer’ activity helps you to deliberately switch focus away from work. In doing so it helps to stop work mode drifting into home mode. So have a shower, listen to music, meditate, do some yoga, go for a walk. Whatever you choose, make it enjoyable and allow yourself to let work related thoughts drift away.

Have a method for ‘parking’ work related thoughts

In an ideal world, we finish work and don’t think about it again until we open our laptops refreshed and ready to start a new day. The reality is very different for many of us.

Tasks we need to remember may suddenly pop into our minds, or we may experience a moment of pure inspiration at the least expected time!

Making a note of your thoughts and ideas can be really useful to stop them whirring around your head. So have a notepad with you in the evenings, or use a notetaking App on your phone to record notes (Evernote and Todoist both work well).

If you’re somebody that often wakes in the night thinking about work, make sure you keep your notepad next to your bed. Empty your mind onto the pages and then your brain can relax.

Final thoughts...

Working all hours, and not taking time out is often talked about like it’s a badge of honour. In reality though, if we just allow our minds to focus on one thing, other aspects of our life and our wellbeing suffer. 

Taking steps to actively switch our mental focus, gives our brains the chance to rest and frees up our mental capacity for other parts of our lives. We can then be fully present and truly enjoy spending time with loved ones or taking part in other hobbies or activities. After all, work is important, but it is just one part of who we are.

If you would like to chat about online Mental Health and Wellbeing courses or our coaching options please get in touch. 


Louise Ansell

Louise is a performance, mental health and wellbeing specialist providing training and coaching solutions for individuals and organisations. This includes the MHFA Mental Health First Aid Courses, tailored Workplace Wellbeing Workshops and working with leaders to cultivate effective cultural change within their organisations. She writes most of the Sky Bounders courses and articles and works with a range of clients on a personal coaching, training and consultancy basis. Beyond the work context, you'll find her enjoying life’s crazy adventures – whether that’s in the mountains, climbing on sea cliffs, trail riding, messing about in boats or simply enjoying exploring beautiful places.