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Disconnect and Recharge: 3 Tips to Break Away from Work on the Weekends

Summer is officially here. Obviously for children this brings much excitement. But even many adults look forward to the warmer days and the many barbecues, vacations, pool days and camping trips that take place.

And then there are the people who only look at summer as an inconvenience, such as the frustration of not being able to wear a business suit all day without sweating into it. Summer means nothing to them.

That’s fine and all, not everyone has to like summer. But if you fall in that category, it might not be just summer itself that you’re not a fan of, perhaps it’s difficult for you to break away from work. Even on the weekends.

Let’s face it; being connected to work at all times via smartphones, iPads, or laptops is just a part of the modern day work life. But that doesn’t mean you should be glued to your work email while at the movies on a Sunday afternoon. In fact, research shows that if you take a mental break from work, it can make you more productive in the end.

Young Ah Park, assistant professor of psychology at Kansas State University and former businesswoman in the South Korean workforce, researched the stress crossover phenomenon between working couples, work-family boundary management and processes of work stress and recovery from stress.

According to a news release from the university, being “plugged-in” to work email at all times can be beneficial for catching up on work. But it comes with a catch. She says that work-related issues can “spill” over to the family domain.

“If there are any unpleasant text messages or emails from work-related people — such as a boss, co-worker, clients, customers or contractors — you may be more likely to ruminate about work-related issues or worries,” she said. “It will affect your feelings and behaviors at home, which could further influence people at home.”

She went on to say that people who do unplug from their job during off hours experience lower levels of fatigue and job burnout.

Park’s viewpoint is aligned with plenty of other research on this topic. For instance, research that appeared in the Journal of Organizational Behavior claims that non-work experiences during the weekend provide opportunities to recover from work demands and allow you to “recharge” your mind.

So while you think that answering emails and working on the weekend is helping your career, you could actually be hurting yourself in the long run.

The key takeaway? Learn to unplug. Here are 3 tips on how to do so:

Set boundaries 

Park recommends setting self-regulated rules for the use of communication and information technologies for work during non-work time. Also, employees may want to build others’ expectations about their preferred work-home boundary and work-related communications outside of business hours.

“Let your co-workers, supervisor or any work-related people know this is how you communicate outside work,” Park said. “There may be times when employees have to be involved in work during non-work hours for urgent projects or tasks, but it’s still important that managers make sure employees have time to recover from stress after the work is done.”

Learn a new hobby

If just the thought of sitting around the house on the weekend is enough to drive you crazy, why not take up some sort of hobby? Take advantage of the warmer days and improve your golf game, go for a hike, or finally tackle your backyard landscape project. The authors in the Journal of Organizational Behavior wrote that “experiences during off-work time include activities that pose a challenge and provide the opportunity to learn something new. These activities allow broadening one’s horizon and can increase individual confidence.”

They recommend also learning a new hobby such as climbing a mountain, or taking a language class. While these experiences initially require a certain amount of effort, the authors wrote that it should increase individual resources such as expertise and a sense of competence.

Spend time with loved ones

This should be a given. But now that you’ve unplugged from work, why not spend more time with your family? Catch up with an old friend you haven’t spoken to in months. You have the time. Just make sure you use it wisely.

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