Thankfully, this is pretty easy to do (even if you’re not tech-savvy), and most of your apps probably have a setting to mute push notifications. With Slack, for example, you can go into your profile, select “preferences,” and manually turn off all alerts until a set date of your choice. If you use Microsoft Teams, click “settings” to suspend any incoming DMs or calls. Gmail, too, allows you to adjust your status in “settings” to “Do Not Disturb” mode for however long you need. “Social media and communication apps are designed to be addictive so that you’re constantly clicking and checking them. That’s why it’s really important to set boundaries to make sure you’re not always being interrupted,” Dr. Ballard adds.Temporarily delete any work-related apps, including your email.The great thing about technology? You can access so much of your job on your portable little smartphone. The dark side? You can access so much of your job on your portable little smartphone. It’s basically second nature at this point to mindlessly check for new pings when you’re away from work—even if you don’t intend to. Maybe you’re bored and passing the time with a quick scroll, or perhaps you’re just refreshing again and again, because why not?If this sounds like you, Dr. Ballard suggests temporarily deleting any work-related apps altogether. That way, you can’t act on the urge to log into the free WiFi and respond to emails while waiting in the hotel lobby, say, or check your Slack notifications during brunch with your parents. And if you need a stronger nudge to disconnect, you can also replace those tempting apps with ones that remind you why you’re on vacation in the first place: to be present and enjoy yourself. “It’s habitual to click on that spot where your email or work app used to be, so I recommend swapping it with Kindle, Headspace, or any other option that redirects you to relax,” Dr. Ballard says.Leave your work laptop or phone behind when you can.We know this isn’t possible for everyone, especially if your “company phone” is also your everyday cell. Ideally, the best way to stop thinking about work is to, um, not bring work with you, Dr. Ballard says. Most of us can’t ditch technology altogether, though. (Your loved ones probably want some way of communicating with you while you’re MIA, and going tech-free could pose a personal safety risk, especially if you’re traveling solo.)However, you might try leaving your phone in your hotel room for the few hours that you’re lounging by the pool with your friends or family, say, or while you’re stretching it out at that restorative yoga class. The main con of this strategy is that you can’t take pictures or videos, but that’s also a pro: It can be rejuvenating to get off your phone and live in the moment, because even an hour or two detached from your device here and there can help you be more mindful and appreciate what’s right in front of you.Turn on “Do Not Disturb” mode.Sure, it would be ideal to ignore any and everything work-related while you’re on vacation, but that’s not necessarily the right move for everyone: Stay-at-home parents, for instance, still need to be reachable in case anything comes up with their kids, and not knowing what’s going on with your job or colleagues—which can be super therapeutic to some—can also worsen anxiety. “Going cold turkey may make you more paranoid and worried. You may start wondering what you’re missing out on, which can make you even more tempted to refresh over and over,” Dr. Dattilo says.
I’ve been working from home for three years now, and while I miss a few things about office life—especially the coworker camaraderie—the ability to have more control over my physical environment has probably been the best perk. I don’t have to deal with a crowded, stress-inducing daily commute. I can also avoid obnoxious overhead fluorescent lights and minimize distracting background sounds (and wear noise-canceling headphones without worrying I’ll be startled by someone popping by my desk). Over time, I’ve also been able to create a WFH space that feels, well, like home. As a result, I feel a bit calmer, less anxious, and more focused (on good days).All that to say, your physical work environment can significantly influence how you feel on the job. “The space within us is definitely affected by the space around us,” Anita Yokota, LMFT, a therapist-turned-designer and author of the new book Home Therapy, tells SELF. “As a therapist, I would go into people’s homes and often find that their external surroundings echoed their internal struggles. Now, as a designer, I remind clients regularly that we can improve our mental state as well as the energy of a space by bringing structure to it.”If your current WFH setup isn’t inspiring you to feel or do your best, here are Yokota’s tips for making it more functional, joyful, and supportive of your workday (and your post-work mental health). Create a designated workspace.Working from the bed, couch, or kitchen table was a necessary makeshift solution for many people who suddenly found themselves with remote jobs in the early days of the pandemic, but if you still don’t have a dedicated area to conduct your business, it’s worth carving one out, Yokota says. Not only can a separate workspace prevent you from hunching over your laptop and straining your body, but it can also ease your mind. “When we, as humans, have structure, we tend to feel safer and calmer,” she says. On the flip side, without those physical boundaries, working from home can easily feel chaotic and stressful, she adds.If you have a home office, that’s great, but a separate work area doesn’t have to be a separate room. “When you give yourself the freedom to create a subset or a zone within a room, you can reimagine your space based on your needs,” Yokota says. For your WFH space specifically, that freedom might look like adding a cabinet unit to your dining room that has a drop-down surface for your laptop and keyboard (which you can tuck away at dinner time), installing floating shelves with drawers that function as a desk in your bedroom or living room, or finding a space for some other type of wall desk. “That space now gets to work for you instead of against you, which is really what we want for our homes—a certain malleability that allows us to be flexible and open,” Yokota says.Prioritize lighting and other elements that will boost your energy and focus.Yokota also recommends adding features to your work zone that’ll help you, well, get in the zone. The biggie? Lighting. “I have a whole section on lighting in my book and for good reason: It has a huge impact on our bodies,” she says. “Getting plenty of light can help you feel more content, alert, and focused throughout your workday.”
It might not seem like much, but this approach to socializing—with a wave when walking through the door or a “good morning” in the elevator—can be a helpful way to start building a new habit that can eventually bring you closer to your coworkers, Dr. Lim says. For people who work in the gig economy without colleagues to keep them company, these interactions could include a quick chat with a customer or another worker in passing.If you don’t know where to start when it comes to small talk, it can be helpful to remember that everyone generally has something in common with their coworkers, according to Rachel Morrison, PhD, an associate professor of management at the Auckland University of Technology who specializes in interpersonal relationships in the workplace. “By definition, a workplace should be filled with a lot of people who are quite similar to you,” Dr. Morrison tells SELF. “They’ve got a similar career and they go to the same place to work. Those two elements—similarity and proximity—mean that friendship should be possible.” It’s a sentiment shared by Dr. Lim, who says small talk is about getting to know someone a little more, so you can find out if you have a shared experience or similar interest.In practice, that might look like commenting on someone’s laptop wallpaper of their dog or asking what leftovers they’re heating up in the microwave, which can give you an opportunity to bond over something you both love—even if it is just an obsession with corgis or a love for Vietnamese food. If you’re working remotely, joining a Zoom meeting a minute or two early to chat with whoever is on the call first about their weekend or upcoming vacation (and keeping your camera turned on) can also help build familiarity with the people you work with, Dr. Morrison says.Then, look for opportunities to open up a little more.When looking back on workplace relationships in your past, there’s a good chance some of your strongest came about after bonding over a shared experience, which led you to open up more than you usually would at work. For example, maybe you worked through a company-wide restructure, put in long hours side by side, or traveled to a conference, then spent hours at the airport together waiting for a delayed flight. “Quite often there are these really seminal and intense experiences that bring people together at work,” Dr. Morrison explains.You can’t force these circumstances, but you can find ways to show a little more of your real self to your coworkers if you want to, creating opportunities to connect on a deeper level. Of course, when you’re feeling isolated in a workplace, sharing your real feelings can be easier said than done. “Opening up can be really hard when you’re lonely because you might go into an unconscious shut-down—when you’re lonely, you’re often more scared of getting rejected,” says Dr. Lim. If you’re feeling nervous, start small: Maybe share a tidbit about a gripping TV show you know you and another coworker are watching, or express a small work frustration you’re struggling with, like a particularly fiddly setting on your video chat. Be deliberate about the way you connect with others—especially if you’re working from home. A 2022 study found that workplace loneliness, as a result of working remotely, can make people feel as though they’re lacking support from their coworkers and managers. This support could be the chance to ask a follow-up question after a tense meeting or the opportunity to open up to your boss about something going on in your personal life. “When you’re working from home a lot of those serendipitous and useful conversations, like those that happen by the water cooler, fall away,” says Dr. Morrison.