How Can You Leave Work At Work?

Published: Feb. 5, 2019 at 3:55 PM CST
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Technology has changed how people work in many ways. For example, it always seems like employees are on call.

That can have an impact on workers, their families and their jobs. So, how can you leave work at work? Good Question.

“First things first, I challenge the premise of the question,” says Dr. Teresa Rothausen, a management professor at the University of St. Thomas Opus School of Business. “There are so many lenses to look at this problem that the answer changes with how you frame the question.”

Rothausen says research shows it’s nearly impossible to separate work from home (and vice versa) entirely. She says just being aware of that reality is important.

“No one is fully capable of having no spillover at work or home,” she says. “It’s that constant interruption that creates the stress.”

So, WCCO went to a workplace known for its family-friendly policies – St. Paul accounting firm Redpath – at a time of year that’s hardly stress-free. During the January through April tax season, employees there are regularly logging 60 hours a week.

Several employees gave out some of their strategies to help reduce some of the biggest friction points in the balance between work and home. They suggested a 24-hour reply policy for emails, setting aside a couple of hours at night to focus only on family, and having a non-traditional work schedule that allows people to come in very early or work longer days in exchange for shorter ones.

“The key to my success is consistency,” said Redpath partner Jill Noack. “No one guesses why I’m not on from 5 to 7 every day – they know.”

Licensed psychologist Kristin Dahl also says it’s virtually impossible to always leave work at work, but one way to combat many problems is to be mindful of the time you spend at each place.

“The saying is be where your feet are,” says Dr. Dahl.

For some, experts suggest meditation or taking a few moments after arriving home from work to decompress. Sometimes a ritual that marks the difference between work and home can help – like changing into different clothes.

Dahl also points out the importance of sleep and exercise because those shade everything people do. She also suggests tweaking the things that cause the most conflict and not feeling guilty for taking care of yourself.

“It really is a choice to have to make because it is so automatic to engage ourselves with technology that you almost have to commit to small steps you can do,” she says. “I don’t think the goal should be perfection.”