Reclaiming the home office closing time

Cooking between meetings, going for a jog during the lunch break, or sleeping longer because the distance from the bed to the desk is so pleasantly short – home office can be so nice! But this very flexibility also brings with it many negative aspects: according to the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), in a recent survey, one in three people reported working more overtime, and just under half of all people said they took fewer breaks and, above all, were unable to switch off at the end of the working day. To prevent mental illnesses such as burnout or depression, it is therefore advisable to actively work on a good work-life balance.

Home office can make you sick

Digitization has already eliminated the need for commuting and noise in open-plan offices, but most people still can’t seem to find a good work-life balance. Not least because accessibility at all times and everywhere is always increasing rapidly. As a result, it’s certainly not uncommon for a colleague to ask a question about tomorrow’s team meeting at 8 p.m., or for a supervisor to announce a (supposedly) important task for Monday morning, even on the weekend. The ability to work from anywhere makes it difficult to switch off when work and the end of the day are in the same place. In addition, the working conditions in the home office are often worse: office furniture, temperature, lighting conditions and the technical equipment. Many people work in the kitchen or from the sofa, which leads not only to physical, but above all psychological discomfort. Permanent stress due to a lack of rest is the greatest source of danger for exhaustion depression, anxiety and somatoform disorders.

The basis: A fixed workplace and regulated working and break times.

In order to be able to work successfully in a home office and to minimize the risk of mental illness, it is important to organize working time as effectively as possible before the end of the working day. The following aspects should be taken into account:

  • A fixed workplace: This can basically be anywhere in the home where there is a reliable Internet connection and sources of interference can be avoided. The presence of all required work utensils clearly identifies the location as a “mobile office”. The advantage for anyone working from home is that they can decide which view and atmosphere inspire them the most without having to consult with colleagues or superiors.
  • Regulated working hours: Anyone who has ever worked in a home office knows the temptation to stay in bed until shortly before work starts and not start the day as productively as in the office. This shifts the tasks to be completed and also the end of the day to the back. This is exactly why it is so important to structure the workday clearly at home and to sort the tasks according to urgency. Break times and the time of the end of the day should also be determined. In addition, to make the workday productive, no after-work activities such as cleaning up, vacuuming or doing laundry should be scheduled during working hours.
  • Restful breaks: Are there crumbs between the letters on the keyboard or are there coffee stains on the mouse pad? It’s high time to spend the breaks more relaxing and to leave the workplace for a short time! It’s also a good idea to arrange a virtual break with colleagues. The more pleasant the workday is, the less rest is needed after work!

Helpful routines for the end of the day

Now that a successful workday has come to an end, it is very important to create a clear boundary between work and private life. This is the only way to achieve a healthy work-life balance, which in the long term will keep you mentally healthy. But how do you make the transition from work to home office? And how can the end of the working day be made as relaxing and resource-boosting as possible? As already mentioned, a fixed time for the end of the working day is enormously important and only succeeds with a well-organized daily structure. For many, in fact, the workday is not over until not the eight hours of work are over, but all tasks are completed. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re never really finished, and that even when you leave the office, there’s still work to be done. There, many find it easier to go to work on time, because colleagues also leave the office at a fixed time and can actually physically close the door to work. What can also help in the home office to finish on time are fixed appointments or dates.

Desk hygiene
Just as the workplace is left behind, it is also found the next day. To ring in the end of the day, it is advisable to sort out all documents, dispose of notes and also properly save and close all files on the computer. Finally, the computer should be shut down completely.

Mute all notifications and devices
Of course, it is difficult when the same devices are used both professionally and privately. In this case, a second profile can be created for computers, and a second SIM card or even a separate company cell phone can be used for mobile devices. Especially for people who communicate a lot at work or are on social media, muting all devices is again a symbol of leaving work behind and taking some time out. A positive side effect is that it also gives your eyes a break from the screens.

Close the (mental) door to work
And now that everything has been put away, muted and closed, here’s the next recommendation for switching off: Also physically leave the workplace and, as far as possible, really close the door behind you. Even if you don’t have a separate study, you should at least try to leave the place where you were working for an hour to take a mental break. Especially when living and working are so close together, it can even help to imagine leaving the office and locking the door. The more often this trick is repeated, the better it will work. Mobile work equipment can also be moved into the closet so it’s out of sight for the rest of the evening.

Outfit changes
Clothes make the man. It’s been known for a long time that even in the home office, it’s much more effective to work when you don’t wear your pajamas, but instead get dressed up. It works the same way in reverse: after leaving the workplace, the end of the working day can also be signaled visually. And even if the clothes worn at home to work may not be quite as chic as those worn in the office, the change still represents an important signal to the brain.

Countless studies prove that meditating has a stress-reducing effect and helps to switch off. This relaxation routine can be a helpful technique to make the switch from work to home. The time spent meditating or the type of meditation are not that important, what is important is the regularity and consciously taking your mind away from everything that has to do with work. Moreover, meditation can not only ring in the end of the day, but also reactivate resources for the next working day.

Physical activity
If active relaxation exercises are not for you, then perhaps working out helps you to switch off! Most people sit a lot in the home office and exercise helps to get the circulation going again and to clear the head. Here, the physical activity can be designed very diverse: Whether it is the round with the dog through the forest, a visit to the gym, cycling in the city park or dancing to the favorite song through the apartment. As soon as one moves, the happiness hormones serotonin, dopamine and endorphin are released and no longer leave room for thoughts circling around work. Even if all the routines mentioned are now established step by step, realistically it will still be the case at times that at the end of the working day people think about the tasks that still need to be done or sometimes work longer – and that’s okay. The point is not to implement all the advice immediately, but to pick out what suits you personally and works best. And that sometimes takes time.

  • Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund:, accessed 21.09.2022.
  • Landes, Miriam, Steiner, Eberhard; Utz, Tatjana & Wittmann, Ralf: Erfolgreich und gesund im Homeoffice arbeiten. Wiesbaden, 2021.

Categories: Burnout Depression

Dr. med. Kjell R. Brolund-Spaether
Ärztlicher Direktor und Chefarzt Dr. med. Kjell R. Brolund-Spaether
Dr. med. Kjell R. Brolund-Spaether ist renommierter Facharzt für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, bei dem stets der Mensch im Mittelpunkt steht: Dank seiner individuell abgestimmten, ganzheitlichen Behandlungspläne verbessert und personalisiert er die psychiatrische Versorgung kontinuierlich. Seine umfassende Expertise in der psychotherapeutischen und medikamentengestützten Behandlung erlangte er durch sein Studium der Humanmedizin an der Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel, spezialisierte Weiterbildungen sowie seine langjährige Erfahrung in führenden Positionen. Seit 2019 ist Dr. med. Brolund-Spaether als Chefarzt und seit 2023 als Ärztlicher Direktor der LIMES Schlosskliniken AG tätig. 2024 trat er unserem Vorstand bei.

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