Make plans, keep work worries at bay

Do you keep worrying about work even when you are away from office? Planning how to resolve incomplete work tasks can help employees switch off from work and enjoy their evenings, advises a new study.

In a study of people’s ability to detach themselves from work, Brandon Smit from Ball State University, Indiana used an online questionnaire to survey 103 employees pursuing 1,127 work goals.

Overall, he observed they had more difficulty detaching from work tasks that had been left uncompleted, especially when these were important to them. However, one group of employees was encouraged to create plans by writing down where, when, and how they would complete these unfinished tasks. Smit found that they detached themselves from work more effectively than employees who did not create plans.

“If you have an important deadline looming on the horizon, for example, your brain will keep nudging you with reminders, which makes it difficult to get a break from work demands,” Smit said.

“It seems like we have the ability to ‘turn off’, or at least ‘turn down’ these cognitive processes by planning out where, when, and how goals will be accomplished,” he said.

This is primarily true for people who already have a difficult time forgetting about work during leisure because their job plays a central role in their life. “For them, a simple change to their work routine like
task planning near the end of the workday would likely make a real difference,” Smit said.

The study was published in the Journal of Organisational and Occupational Psychology.