Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Do you ever struggle with fully checking out? No, I'm not talking about checking out your attractive bartender without getting caught, and I'm not talking about checking out a library book or anything like that. I mean signing out of work and checking out.
My recent trip to Italy (which was wonderful, and did involve tiramisu nearly every day, thank you for asking) has me really reflecting on the act - nay, the art - of checking out.
Employees in 2022 are prioritizing work-life balance more than ever before, and this is especially true with younger employees, like millennials and Gen Z. Exit surveys nationwide suggest that the many employees are leaving their jobs due to poor work-life balance; 77% of employees report feeling burnout in their current role at least once; when job searching, 72% of job seekers consider work-life balance as they peruse job descriptions. It's really no wonder that we're seeing statistics like this, though. A whopping 94% of service professionals in the U.S. spend over 50 hours working per week, and many of these people are working on the weekends (this doesn't factor in construction workers).
The trend is clear:
Burnout is high, and work-life balance is low.
Working from home can be both a blessing and a curse in the work-life balance department. On the one hand, employees are at home more so they are able to interact with their family members more throughout the day, and without the commute, their time at home lengthened. On the other hand, however, the robust technology that made working from home possible also makes it easier to work off-hours. We were once able to turn off the computer and walk away from it and go home. Now, the computer follows us. You get email notifications, phone calls, and Teams/Slack/whichever messaging app chats all directly to your cell phone throughout the day.
So, in order to properly check out, we need to try to reclaim that turn off the computer and walk away mentality. Here's some quick n easy ways to do that:
Turn off notifications. That email will still be there come tomorrow morning. If you clock out at 5:30pm get an email at 7, don't pressure yourself to answer it. Turn off the notifications entirely so you won't even see it until the next morning.
Define your boundaries with yourself and your coworkers. You are available during your regular work hours, that's it. If a coworker asks you to work outside of those boundaries, politely remind them that your regular workday ends at [insert time here] but you'll be happy to prioritize it first thing tomorrow.
Begin a post-work ritual. Implement a small habit that you do right when work ends. If you work from home, maybe shut your laptop down and close it, then go for a walk, take a shower, do a workout, etc. The idea here is to make a habit that signals to you that you're switching tasks and you're away from work. Don't sign out of work and then look at your cell phone for an hour; physically separate yourself.
All these tips become even more important if you're out of office for something like a vacation to Italy. If you're out of office for an extended period of time, be it for personal reasons or just some well-earned relaxation, you're going to hurt yourself in the long run if you don't check out of work for that and make yourself wholly present in what you're experiencing outside of work.
Checking out is healthy, and we should all practice it as much as we can! Your work-life balance will improve drastically.