Working from home has made it challenging to set hard and fast boundaries around our personal and professional lives. We’re working longer and harder to keep up with what we’d normally get done in a 40-hour week, effectively eliminating the “me time” each of us needs to decompress and return to our work feeling refreshed the next day.
A simple strategy to secure some downtime after working hours — and give yourself something to look forward to after a long day — is planning a fun activity to complete when you log off. It can be something as simple as reading a few pages in a new book, or taking a few minutes to continue in your efforts to learn a new language or instrument. The key is identifying something that brings you joy and making a point of diving into it after every workday. Here are just a few of the benefits of bringing small yet impactful activities into your after-work routine.
Detaching from work can boost engagement
Rejecting our “always on” world and making an effort to disengage from work almost feels taboo at first — but in the long run, it can actually be our greatest work performance tool. Research published by The Association for Psychological Science shows that employees who detach from their work during their off-hours “are more satisfied with their lives and experience fewer symptoms of psychological strain, without being less engaged while at work.” In fact, employees who make time to step away from their work and focus on other things that bring them joy are better able to dive into work responsibilities.
Learning something new can help you manage work stress
Planning an after-work activity — particularly one that involves learning something new — is a great way to take charge of your stress levels. Chen Zhang, Ph.D, an assistant professor of leadership and organization management at Tsinghua University, and her colleagues found in their research that focusing on learning can ease work stress. “This can mean picking up a new skill, gathering new information, or seeking out intellectual challenges,” and can “buffer workers from detrimental effects of stress including negative emotions, unethical behavior, and burnout,” Zhang and her colleagues write in The Harvard Business Review.
Getting your creativity flowing can improve job performance
Flexing your creativity muscle after working hours can actually boost your performance while on the job. Kevin Eschleman, Ph.D., an organizational psychologist at San Francisco State University, found that employees who engage in creative endeavors outside of work experience improved creative problem solving and willingness to help others while performing their work responsibilities. Your new quarantine hobby can actually make you better at your job.