When working from home, how do you turn off at the end of the day?

I've been working from home 1-2 days a week recently. It's been a great boon to my general productivity and happiness, but I've been experiencing difficulty "turning off" at the end of the day. I haven't been able to signal to my unconscious that it's okay, you can relax and stop working now.

For those of you who work remote full-time, or just occasionally, how do you "end" your day?

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DISCUSSION (55)

I routinely leave to and from work by taking a 20 minute walk. That is enough for me to drive my mind to work mode in the morning and sufficient as well to let the last thoughts run their course after work. Also I have separate laptops for work and for personal use. Main thing is to however practice this daily, just as you would leave to and from office. And I work full-time from home.

While I don't have long-term experience working from home, this problem is one that I've faced quite a bit on a smaller scale and have been concerned about when considering working from home in the future, but I think your 20 minute walks sound like a very simple and effective way of switching gears in/out of work-mode. I'm definitely going to give this a try the next time I have to bring a few days of work home.

I use separate work and fun computers for the most part. When I am done with work, I try moving rooms, starting a video game, or cooking dinner.

My current setup is a work laptop, a home laptop, and a home desktop. I set out goals for what I need to accomplish and break my time into chunks. I don't get on my desktop unless I am going to do something not work related.

Damn good call. I'm on my computer trying to read something or watch a show and VS Code is just calling my name sometimes.

Of course, it's easy to have the problem in the other direction, where Reddit is only a click away when you should be writing acceptance tests. 😁

Admittedly, I have it set up so I can work on my personal computer if need be (vpn, dev environment) but it is there in a pinch. I try to enforce the separation for work/life balance and mental health.

I know the problem of distraction rabbit holes well and I hate using website blocking software. RescueTime is one option. You can get more analytics on your website viewing habits or set a time limit for how long to spend on a task/site.

I've been considering getting a desktop to help with this. Gonna go for it after reading your comment. Thanks!

Even though I don't work remotely, I too find it hard to switch gears at the end of the day. I like the cooking dinner suggestion in particular, ymmv :)

Or, you can try using different browsers. I use Chrome for work, Chromium for freelance, and Firefox for everything else. If you don't have the spare cash for buying separate hardware, this can be a good way to go about it. :)

Using you suggestion, It could also use dual boot OS or dual user account, one for work, another for personal life.

My setup is like @Alyss, work laptop and personal desktop/laptop.
I do like 1/2 times week remote, and I'm a lot more productive and focused.
I don't have trouble disconnecting from work, what I do after finish is cooking or watching TV in living room.
Also, I work in my bedroom, is where I have my desk ;)

Have an office.

My office is in my basement (go 🇨🇦) and when I come upstairs at the end of the day that's it. I also have 2 laptops as mentioned. Work laptop stays in the basement, other laptop stays upstairs.

Having separate physical spaces seems to help.

Something a client of mine did was walk around the block after work. Once the lap was done, work day was over.

I live in NYC where space is tight, so a separate office at home is tough — but I'll definitely be using the "walk around the block" trick.

The most redeeming part of my commute is the walk + podcast time + fresh air, so I can replicate that in a similar manner at the end of the day.

Cheers!

Given that the ‘separate space’ approach is impractical for you, what a about changing what you wear or even which cup you drink from? As long as there is some clear separation somewhere, it might be enough for your subconscious to get the picture.

The end to my working day is a cooking dinner. I'll put on something to watch and spend 45min+ in the kitchen happily cooking away. It's a great way to end my work day because they are such unrelated tasks.

I can't turn off even when I work at the office. :) How do you do it?

Same here. I even get a call from office to cover up some stuff right when I just get home. It's really stressing 😶

Probably shouting into an echo chamber here. I’ve worked from home for 5 years and have had varying degrees of success “shutting off” the day. Everyone’s rules and guidelines are what I follow or have at least tried at one time or another.

I’ve come to accept though that if you’re a remote worker who works at home that the lines are blurred between work and non-work, especially in software development. Little things like waiting to check work email at the start of the next day (even letting email sit all weekend) are the things that help the most.

My work-life balance is solid though. I’ve been able to set appropriate boundaries over time. And I’ve learned from a lot of you all that it’s different from everyone else. You ultimately are the master of your own fate. Figure out what works for you and do that.

6pm. Close laptop. Take dog for walk. After walk, enjoy the evening with my SO.

While it's not always that easy, it is usually that easy.

If a wild inspiration strikes, I'll send an email from my phone to myself or write it in my work notebook.

If I'm in a super crunch time (like right now), I set a later stop-time, like 10pm. If I'm doing any work beyond that, I'm really hurting myself and my relationship; that's non-negotiable.

I have a shutdown ritual. I got the idea from the book "Deep Work" by Cal Newport. Basically, at the end of my workday, I perform the same ritual in order to "shutdown" currently it looks like:

  1. Prepare a quick list of things I need to work on tomorrow
  2. Check email / chat to make sure there isn't anything falling apart
  3. Take a deep breath
  4. Shut my laptop
  5. Say the words: "And, I'm done"

This works well both from home or from the office. It's like you're giving yourself permission to be done working. After about a week, your body starts to understand what you're doing and gets on board.

I'm going to try this checklist, including the audible "And, I'm done" sign-off. That sounds like a brilliant physical/mental signal of closure at the end of the day. Might supplement that with a walk around the block for good measure.

Thanks for sharing!

Use a good time tracking tool. If you've got anywhere between 6-8 hours in (including study time, reading up, answering e-mails, etc) it's time to call it quits. Also, have a routine! I prefer getting an early start, getting distracting things out of the way (workout, groceries, you name it) and have pretty normal working hours.

TL;DR:

Stuff that worked for me, maybe not everything is possible for everyone:

  • Don't feel guilty for working at home (I did)
  • Allow yourself to take breaks (as you would in the office)
  • Use a different laptop for private and work
  • Have a "ritual" to get off work (shutdown and put away laptop, leave the room)
  • Don't work in the living room (then you live in the office)
  • Set clear boundaries with other people (at work and at home)
  • Don't be half working / half at home

Long:

I work from home 2 to 3 days a week now. I've been doing it for years. I've found it got easier over time.

I'm pretty strict in my work-life balance separation. I can imagine people that run their own company, or are independant freelancers may find this more difficult than an employee.

In the beginning I always forgot to take lunch breaks or take them in 5 minutes. There was a feeling of guilt that was not there when taking breaks at the office and it took a while before I was confident to take breaks of equal length. Or even to quickly get out of the house to get some food.

The same "guilt" make me work late, or get back to work in the evening. This was increasing stress.

I don't know where the guilt came from. Maybe the fear of being accused of "slacking off".

Anyway: allow yourself to take breaks. Step away from the home office during those times. Take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, walk around a bit.

I have always used a seperate laptop for work and home. It helps to fully shut down and put away the work laptop at the end of the day.

I think this ritual can help to put you in a different mental state.

I also have my laptop on a desk in a seperate room where I don't hang out if I'm not working. So it takes some effort to get "back to work".

If you live with other people, it's important to have a clear agreement: when I'm working I'll be working and I should not be disturbed (within reason). But also: when I'm done working I'm all yours. Don't be half present at home and half working. Nobody benefits from that.

It's become easier with kids, since frequently you have no choice but to stop working on a tight schedule.

Only recently, I have learned that it helps me to have fixed work-at-home days and work-at-the-office days. But that's not really related to your question anymore.

Can you elaborate a little? Are you referring to my remark that kids enforce and en-of-day or that I can't mix being with the family and working?

The original point I was trying to make was: you can't work excessive long days when you have kids to get from school, babies from day-care or older kids to soccer practice or wherever. These obligations enforce an end of the work-day.

In that regard I don't think babies or kids are different.

Sorry, that was a pretty vague point that I made.

I get your point how they mark the end of the work-day when they return home. By babies, actually I tried to mean 0-1 age, pre day-care babies. How to approach this when the baby is always at home?

Asking because I liked your point about not being half present at home and half working. And with our first child, 6 months old now, my work transitioned to half present at home and half working most of the time as mother needs quite a bit of support.

I simply never been a fan of working long hours, lol

I have a work laptop, a personal laptop, and a personal PC. I do not have work email, VPN, or Slack on any of the personals. I do have work Slack on my phone, in case there's a 🔥, but it's not something I open unless someone mentions or DMs me.

The work laptop gets closed at the end of the day, and with it, goes the office.

I've been working from home full time for over 8 years. The one thing I've found that makes the biggest difference is ensuring you use a separate user for work and for personal. When you decide you're ready to "turn off", switch users.

If you don't BYOD, then shutdown your work laptop.

This won't solve your problem, but it helps a lot...

I define spaces:

  • work spaces ( a room, table, corner, etc.)

  • everything else spaces (the rest of the place/house

I only work in work spaces during my work schedule and then don't go there for anything after work hours. Going out to exercise or anything helps to also break off the continuous feeling of being alone in a house.

Be very clear to yourself that you work at certain hours and dont do anything outside those hours. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. You don't go to the office to save some file do you? Then don't open your email client on your phone 😃

TL;DR: Go outside for a little while 😊

I discovered the trick (for me) when I was working with a client whose office was at the end of my street. It took me 2 minutes to walk to and from work, from home desk to work desk. It was fun and convenient for a while. But then I started having the same issue you describe.

After many weeks of not being able to "switch off", I just got up and went for a walk one night. I walked for about 30 minutes (to a nearby convenience store and back) at a leisurely pace, and while I was walking my mind began to wander too. I saw things in my neighbourhood I hadn't noticed before. I noticed cool street art, and interesting houses etc.

By the time I got home, I'd cleared my mind of all things work related, and I was solidly in "home" mode.

After that, I just started walking the long way home from the office every day. Usually taking about 20-30 mins. I find that it gives a physical sense of separation of home and work, like I had to walk a long way between them, which cues my mind to leave work, and start the journey home.

In the context of working from home, I generally cap off my work day with a walk. I'll go out, even if I don't have to, and just mosey around the neighbourhood. It has the same effect for me, even though the start and end point are the same place.

It also works for commuting. Generally if there's a train/bus station close to where I'm working, I'll walk to the next one in the direction I'm travelling, and get off one stop early too. Seems to have a similar effect.

Toddler knocking on the door shouting "Daddy!" usually does the trick. There's no space in my head for work when looking after him.

Cooking from fresh ingredients is very good, too. When I start, I don't have much motivation, but it's so much more concrete than coding. This meal is going to ship tonight, it might not always be perfect, but it will ship. We get recipe boxes delivered, so I don't have to invent something every day. And a healthy dinner is good for you in all respects.

I have worked 100% remote for 9 years. Before that, I was part time remote. The single most important thing is to have a dedicated space where I do my work and nothing else. In our current place, that’s a well appointed home office. Other times, it’s been Starbucks or other away-from-the-house spot. Whatever the space, it contributes to the second most important thing: a schedule and routine. Even with a flexible schedule, it’s important that my brain knows we’re going to work at this time no matter what and we end at that time no matter what.

I have an iMac in my office and a MacBook Pro for mobile, and it happens to work out that I do my job work on the iMac mostly and my side project work on my MacBook Pro, but I have both available on both machines for flexibility. My “fun computer” is my iPad Pro.

I don't enforce separation of spaces or devices like some of the other commenters -- my desktop is set up exactly for how I prefer to write code, so of course I'm going to use that when I can, and it's a desktop so I'm not about to move it around multiple times a day. But I keep my work laptop open on my desk during the day, and that's the only machine that has my work email and Slack up. At the end of the day, I close the laptop. Simple as that.

I work from home anywhere from 1 to 3 days a week. I find I have trouble with the separation as well and I don't have space for separate office setups.

What has worked for me is to either go completely away from the computer for an hour (like read a book, have a quick nap then make dinner) or and this does tend to work better, have a shower when done the work day because having a hot shower is definitely relaxing :)

I have a specific work laptop that I don't use for any other purposes. I don't let my work email create notifications on my phone and I have pretty aggressive Do not Disturb schedule in Slack, too.

When I log on for the day, I set a reminder in slack for me to log off whenever my day should end. When I get that reminder I'll try to clean up/wrap up whatever I'm working on, say my goodbyes, and then close the laptop. Sometimes I'll still get the itch to open it back up and knock out some project that's been occupying my mind, but the separation helps keep those moments rare.

I close my laptop and get out of bed lol. Joking.
But honestly when I work remotely after the work day is over, I turn off the laptop and go outside for a walk or something. Just have a reason to leave the house really. Helps refresh my mind.

There are a few things that usually help me switch modes at the end of the workday.

My top two are swimming (leverages some kind of mammalian relaxation reflex or something), and weight training. (Burns off adrenaline.) But those rely on having access at home to a pool and/or some weights. (I have the weights, but no pool.)

The third is a little odd, but works for me: I wear my normal work clothes to work at home (usually jeans, sneakers, and a polo), and when I'm done working for the day, I change into non-work clothes.

Happy hour is also really effective. At the end of the day, fix yourself a drink, and spend a few minutes winding down.

Having kids helps, seriously. Not that I'm saying "have a kid," but when my kids get home from school (4 pm), its time to stop what I'm doing and focus a bit on them. How was your day? What did you do in school today?

The other way I break away from the work monotony is by taking my dogs for a walk. There's nothing like some sunshine and brisk air to help calm the nerves.

My final way of winding down is putting on a record and just lying there in a listen-only mode. I put on one of my favorite records and just soak it in for 10-15 minutes, sometimes longer.

I WFH 100%, and have been since 2009. I do all work from a VM running on my personal desktop. So first thing I do is turn that off. Second is physically remove myself from the area where I work for at least an hour. In my case it's office in 2nd floor of my house. That could just be going downstairs to clean the kitchen/dinner prep, walk the dog, go to the gym, grab a drink and/or food, etc.

When I used to work off my work laptop in the living room and the end of the day would come I had no problem stopping work, but could never easily transition into after work mode. I would spend 5-8 pm feeling just off, tired, unmotivated to even cook a meal. It was pretty awful until I forced myself to always work in a dedicated space in the house that wasn't where I also relax and watch TV. Of course after dinner I often retreat back to my office to play WoW, so I do utilize the space outside of work hours, but for pleasure.

I think you need to ask what you're trying to do when you "end" your day? You need a KPI. What aspect of your life is unfulfilled? I understand the need to "turn off" but a lot of the time my hobbies blend into work, so cognisantly deciding that boundary is not simple.

I've worked from home for 7 years now.

I have strict rules about how working from home goes in general:

1) Designated workspace with designated work computer. I only work in that space, and my work computer doesn't leave that space. Ever.

I have a "fiddling-around" computer for when I'm feeling froggy and want to code for fun. While it's technically a work-issued computer, I mostly use it for testing. So it doesn't have that mental association as a "work computer". It also means that, if I'm downstairs watching TV and coding, my wife knows that she can interrupt me.

2) A routine. Because of a sleep-disorder (narcolepsy), I take medication that regulates when I'm asleep and when I'm awake. The side effect is that I'm awake at roughly the same time every day.Waking up at the same time every day helps me quit at the same time every day. Doesn't matter when you wake up or quit, just keep it consistent.

3) Those Phillips Hue lights. I have some of those, and they're on a schedule. They turn off at 6:00pm every evening. That's a visual cue that it's "quitting time".

4) Company communications go on company devices only. If my work computer is logged in to Slack (or Skype, because my company communicates like it's 1999), and I leave my work computer in my work space when I leave work, I can't talk to work. I then don't log into skype on my phone or tablets. That makes it a bit more like going to a "real" office, in that they can't talk to me when I'm not "in the office", which I like.

If at all possible, I avoid ever talking to co-workers outside of my office.

5) small breakfast, tiny lunch. I'll eat something, but intentionally not much. That way when 6:00pm rolls around, I'm hungry. Hungry-frank doesn't want to work any more.

6) Work music vs. non-work music. I like to listen to music sometimes while I'm working. But I use different pandora stations during the week than on the weekend. It furthers the distinction between work-mode and non-work mode.

First of all, stay focused during work hours, avoid distractions with Social Media or the TV, listen to music instead, bookmark articles that interest you instead of reading them ASAP... be strict with the work hours, remember that you don't get paid extra for the extra time; that should give you enough productive hours (including some healthy pauses to not burn yourself out).

At the end of the day, I usually take my dog to a nearby park for a long walk/run/play session. When I come back home, I avoid going back to the computer, instead, I cook dinner or get ready to go out for a drink, try a new restaurant, etc. Later, you can watch a flick, or read a non-technical book (an actual paper book, not digital to avoid blue light)... and that does it for me. After another a short dog walk I'm ready to sleep and recharge batteries.

I have a pair of "work shoes" (some comfortable trainers) which I only ever wear for working from home. I put them on at the start of my work day and then slip them off at the end of my work day.

I try to be strict with myself that I don't let work bleed into the evening beyond when I take of my work shoes.

It has become quite a nice ritual. I am aware of letting out a nice "aahhh" as I take them off, and it serves as a good signal to my wife that I am now "home" from work.

Having kids forces the issue for me - they demand attention - but aside from that the biggest thing for me is not touching the computer. I'll browse things on my phone, but try to shut that down by an hour or so before bed too and only read things either in paper or kindle.

The other thing that can help is at the end of the day jotting down notes to myself about anything unfinished... this lets me let go of them and know I won't forget to do them in the morning. I'm not as consistent about doing this as I'd like but when I do it helps tremendously.

Oh! Working from home is terrible:) It helps to grow your productivity, but at the same time not letting you go at the end of the working day. You just keep working until the late night... And that is the biggest disadvantages. I can't really 'turn off' when I work from home!

I set a timer for how long I'm going to work. But when I work, I actually work. No Facebook, no twitter, Zero distractions. Once I'm done, I don't think about work at all. I even have an app that turns off my work email from sending me notifications. I find that this intentional restriction that I put myself on how much I'm allowed to do anything work related every day keeps my developer mind fresh every day and prevent burnout.

Setting a “dead stop” time for work projects. When the time comes I’ll leave my house and go to the gym and pick up groceries for dinner. Leaving the house is an absolute must for me

I have 2 explorers, one for work and one for personal use, so, I close the work explorer and I move my concentration to a task that i enjoy, or simply i go to the gym.

Its a real challenge.
Most days, I just can't shutdown.
So I hibernate.

@peter I try to workout or just do something to step away from my computer :D

I have a daughter so she makes me stop to play with her 😄

From 6pm, it's yoga time. I also have a cup of tea to relax the mind and body. I really do try to stay away from screens and electronic devices to relax the eyes too.

I pour myself a glass of whiskey and put Marques Brownlee on YouTube.

Although this might not be helpful to anybody: I've got a toddler at home and to turn off I just have to stop fighting her for my working hours. 🙃

That's my secret: I'm always working.

When I don't then I'm away from my computer having drinks or doing something not related nor relatable to work.

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