Leave work behind

Using humour does not mean work isn’t taken seriously, it is just taken lightly. And one way to carry work lightly is to make sure you are not carrying it when you don’t need to.

To avoid becoming a humourless workaholic, try developing a ritual to end the working day. Work should be cleanly separated from life.

Switch off with a rite of passage

The inability to leave work behind, to shut off, is perhaps the greatest barrier to achieving a healthy work-life balance. It is one of the five top reasons sited for the current increase in stress.

Sunday nights are filled with regrets; not enough has been accomplished. By the end of the weekend, the worker has only unwound enough to realise how tired they are!

Take a rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.

Ovid (43 BC–17 AD)

Modern workers complain work follows them home, even if they lock their briefcases in the filing cabinet. Work seeping into life is a problem more prevalent now that we are all, in effect, small businesses, with PCs at home, laptops in the car and mobiles in the pocket.

The result of this wondrous technology is an increased need to learn how to switch off work and switch on life. So get the most out of your down time. You need, you deserve, you must return to the workplace replenished!

Passage = solution

The solution is simple: develop a rite of passage. Create a ritual that signifies the end of the working day and the beginning of the rest of life. It should engage as many senses as possible – especially the sense of humour. In other words, like Pavlov, ring a bell and condition the response to the ritual to be letting go of work and grabbing on to life.

The rite of passage can be private or it can be done with colleagues as a team action.

The possibilities are endless.

  • A group of women working on a complaints desk finish their day by standing in a circle and beating their chests like Tarzan, with ah-a-ahs echoing out into the street.
  • An office of London architects have decided to hop three times on their right foot and four times on their left.
  • A call centre manager splashes cold water on his face, looks in the mirror and meows (he’s had enough of being the tiger...).

Sound silly? So it should!

The logical cynical side of our brains is more likely to shut off if it doesn’t understand. This then allows the positive physical response to take over.

While at home, if the Tarzans start to think about work they just make a loose fist and tap their chest – no one notices. The architects simply shift their weight onto one foot and the manager quietly purrs.

This evokes the uplifting feeling again, reinforcing I am off duty. In NLP, it’s called Anchoring – you have literally anchored the response of switching off work to the action, so as soon as you do the action, your brain switches off work. It’s based on scientifically-proven facts. Did you really think this topic was going to be funny? It’s deadly serious, weighty stuff – honest!

If you are truly off duty then you don’t need a long weekend, or a short weekend, to return to work with renewed vim and vigour and with your batteries recharged. You only need about eight hours. Imagine coming to work every morning feeling like you’ve just returned from holiday.

As with any good habit, this starts as a discipline. You have to make yourself practise it. Don’t think about it; just do it. Enter a state of FUNN – Functional Understanding Not Necessary.