Are you a workaholic? One in four people say work is the last thing they think about before going to bed and over 40% say it’s the first thing they think about when they wake up. It’s becoming harder and harder for people to disconnect from the office more than ever. Why? Technology is definitely a huge part of staying tethered to the office since we can connect remotely almost anywhere.

An expectation is often set that we are reachable and available at all times, especially if you have a company phone. I also think job security also plays a big part for many people. If you don’t respond to an email, text or phone call immediately, especially if it’s from your boss or someone senior in the company, you may have anxiety and fear.

I’ve witnessed so many people that are slaves to their job; they put so much internal pressure on themselves based on perceived external expectations.

We have allowed work to bleed into our downtime with family, friends and even our “me” time. I work with a lot of people that stay connected because they want to; it’s a choice, rather than an obligation. And from some of the articles and research I’ve read, these folks are also more stressed on any given day.

So why do it? I think the economy is still unstable and employees continue to feel insecure in the future of their jobs. Additionally, they put the expectation on themselves. Work becomes their life.

Not disengaging from work can have some huge health risks, including a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and depression. Scary! It also isn’t good for work in general since research has shown that overwork causes a decrease in cognitive skills, leading to mistakes and errors in decision making.

So how can you break the workaholic habit? It’s all about setting boundaries and expectations. From my own personal experience, before I set my own work-life boundaries, my continuous connection, thoughts, and stress about work not only hurt my relationships, but also made me sick more often.

I believe working longer hours also made me less productive and prone to making more mistakes. It ended up being a downward spiral since being less efficient and making mistakes, led to working more to make up for it… which then led to more stress and anxiety about making additional mistakes, and wanting to maintain a good reputation with my boss and co-workers. (However, I’ve since learned everyone makes mistakes and you will remember your own mistakes more than anyone else will.)

You almost have to start over with a clean slate. For me, that was getting a new job. I took a significant pay decrease and a lower level position, and in doing so set internal work boundaries immediately, which I try to follow the majority of the time.I will only work 8 to 5, unless there is an urgent need to stay later.

I will not stay late to “be seen” by others or to work on random projects.I will create timelines, to-do lists, and deadlines to ensure my due dates for projects are met.I will not take a work computer home or login to work from home, unless absolutely necessary.

I will create a routine that helps me disengage from work. (I will either go to the gym or go running after work almost everyday, and I always take Coco for a walk and read for pleasure for 15-20 minutes when I get home.)

Start small with little things that will help you disengage at the end of the day. For example, create a to-do list for the next day, so you aren’t thinking of it on the way home, at night, or when you wake up in the morning. Once you start setting boundaries and creating new habits, you will see the benefits, such as:

  • enjoying your workday more knowing you have a finite amount of time at the office
  • feeling more confident in the work you dobeing physically and mentally healthier

It’s always about replacing bad habits with good habits.

What do you do to disengage from work? What obstacles stand in your way?