Jane Gifkins, Griffith University – Switching Off From Work

Switching off after work has a lot of benefits, but it’s easier said than done.

Jane Gifkins, Research fellow at Griffith University, examines the benefits.

Jane Gifkins is a research fellow with the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing with the Griffith Business School at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Jane completed her Ph.D  investigating fatigue and recovery in shiftworking emergency department nurses in 2022; with her primary research focus being worker health and wellbeing, work intensification, and working time arrangement. Jane has a scientific background having predominantly worked as a medical laboratory scientist and considers herself a scientist in a social science discipline. Jane is currently working as a research fellow investigating healthcare professionals’ health and wellbeing.  She has presented her work at local and international conferences and published original research papers on topics of the impacts of high job demands and shiftwork on sleep, diet, and lifestyle choices, fatigue and recovery.

Switching Off From Work

After work have you ever replayed in your mind every task that occurred during the working day?  Wouldn’t it be great to ‘flick the off switch’ when you leave work so you can completely forget about it? The benefits of doing so are well documented: less fatigue and better health and wellbeing. However, it is not enough to be physically away from work, workers also need to be able to forget about work as well. This is known as psychological detachment, which is a recovery experience encompassing restorative behaviors and activities to reduce fatigue and support health and wellbeing.

Psychological detachment is important as physically detaching from work (refraining from work activities) and psychologically (disconnecting mentally) allows for the de-activation of the physiological stress response to allow for rest and sleep. My investigation of shiftworking nurses reported psychological detachment post-shifts was linked to improved health and lower fatigue. Nurses described various activities they participated in to reduce fatigue post-work: exercise, socialising and participating in leisure activities. The benefits of these activities are well-known but can also encourage workers to focus on what they are doing rather than dwelling on work. The list of these activities, which can assist with detachment is endless. However, it is more about what the individual finds pleasurable and engaging.

Whether listening to music, or walking the dog, post-work activities should not be prescriptive but fit around existing commitments. Switching off from work also means not letting work come home with you. Where possible, complete all work tasks so these aren’t on your mind at home. Unplug from technology by not checking work emails, and texts to allow for segmentation from work. Notably, working from home has made this more difficult. However, setting these types of routines can help put physical as well as mental boundaries around your work – even when your workplace is in the next room.

Read More:
[The Conversation] – Switching off from work has never been harder, or more necessary. Here’s how to do it