Mastering the ability to truly disconnect: An essential skill in the workplace
Living in the pandemic, we have experienced extraordinary advancements in technology, however now it often feels impossible to truly connect inward and with those around us, and near impossible to get away from work.
We are under a constant and endless barrage of video conferences apps like Zoom and Teams, emails, and messages. This along with the Whatsapp messaging culture of sending texts and voice notes all hours of the day, and the necessary engagement with social media in almost every industry have blurred the lines between our professional and personal lives.
Even when your “out of office” is switched on, miles away in Mauritius or deep on retreat in the desert, switching off is a struggle. In fact, studies have shown that it takes at least one week of vacation for the effects of that holiday to be fully felt, and even more so for those experiencing intense levels of stress and burnout. However, most are not taking this much needed time out, and even if they are, they don’t truly disconnect.
There is an immense pressure to be “switched on” as we overcompensate for being at home more, by scrambling to check inboxes, text messages and social media feeds at all hours of the day. The pandemic confirmed this and the reality is that with fewer boundaries, we almost never stop working.
So, what can we do differently?
Understand the impact of stress
Intense fear and anxiety around COVID compounded by a remote work culture with blurred boundaries have contributed to high levels of burnout. In part connected to this, the workplace is also seeing the mass exodus of employees quitting their jobs, dubbed the “Great Resignation” by Anthony Klotz, associate professor of management at Texas A&M University.
The unending onslaught of stress on the body is stunting our creative ability and attention spans, so that we then operate from a place of mere survival. We then become more entrenched in numbing activities like compulsive snacking, smoking, social media scrolling, and drinking.
Getting enough rest is imperative to combatting such pressures. This means, switching off the screens at least 2 hours before bedtime, being deliberate about when to check emails and ensuring that getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep is a top priority.
Move your body
A wonderful way to enter into a more harmonious state within yourself is to move. Walk, dance, practice yoga, swim or do anything that compels you to focus on the new activity at hand. Exercise can absorb you and help to induce a deeper state of flow, not to mention the inevitable biochemical shift in the brain and in the body.
Connect with your tribe
Make time with those who bring out the best in you and with whom you feel energized. Seek out community when you feel particularly stressed at work or anxious in general. Get out of the neurosis of your mind by serving others and giving without expectation.
Spend time in nature
Take time away from your screen and be deliberate about going for that walk on the beach or watching the sunset, ideally without your phone in hand. Learn to listen to the sound of waves crashing against the sand or birds chirping in the garden. Come up with new activities to enjoy while the weather allows, use weekends to make your way into the mountains, and explore new wadis.
Learn to meditate
Adopting a meditation routine of just 3 minutes daily is extremely helpful in enhancing cognition and developing self-awareness. The more aware you are of your internal stress and fatigue levels, the more these feelings become a trigger for you to take a screen break or simply rest.
Start by simply closing your eyes and practicing a segmented breath. This could involve a continuous cycle of 4 parts sniffing in through the nose and 4 parts sniffing out through the nose. This is an easy exercise that not only helps us to alter our biochemistry, but teaches us to live in the present moment. One need not be spiritual or religious to appreciate the value of living here and now.
Disconnecting from work will naturally happen when you learn to reconnect with yourself.
The reality is that most people are unconscious and copious about the way in which they use technology and engage with work and the world at large.
The key is to be more measured and conscious as we go about our workday. It is up to us to establish the parameters and boundaries.
It is essential for our health and wellbeing.