The art of psychological detachment from work

Researcher Jane Gifkins unveils insights into achieving balance, emphasising psychological detachment for employee happiness and health.
By: | December 28, 2023

In the fast-paced world of modern work, finding a balance between professional responsibilities and personal life can be challenging. A study conducted by Jane Gifkins, Researcher, Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, Griffith University, shed light on the importance of psychological detachment from work and its positive impact on employee happiness, health, and overall wellbeing.

Fictional pieces such as hit dystopian TV series Severance offer futuristic solutions to achieve mental separation between work and home life – a computer chip implanted in their brains for a complete “mindwipe”. While the show explores the potential pitfalls of such an extreme measures, it raises an intriguing question: Can employees achieve a healthy work-life balance by flicking an internal “off switch”?

In an article in The Conversation, Gifkins delved into the concept of psychological detachment, emphasising the significance of leaving work-related thought behind when not on the job. Her research, focused on nurses working in highly stressful hospital emergency departments, identified three key strategies to reduce fatigue and promote mental recovery from work-related stress.

The first is exercise, which offers both physical and mental benefits highlighted by Gifkin’s research. Whether it’s yoga, running, or participating in team sports, exercise encourages a deep focus on the present moment, effectively diverting attention away from work-related concerns.

The second factor that contributes to mental health is social connections, which Gifkins emphasised as the importance of spending quality time with family, friends, or pets. She suggested deliberately setting aside time for these connections is crucial as it allows individuals to shift their focus from work to nurturing personal relationships.

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Lastly is to engage in pleasurable and meaningful hobbies, such as sewing or gardening, which emerges as a potent strategy for reducing the effects of fatigue during home time. Gifkins underscored the importance of choosing activities that bring joy and engagement, regardless of the specific pursuit. By doing so, individuals can detach from work-related stress and focus on activities that contribute to mental recovery and overall wellbeing.