Most of us have had a tough time over the past few years with having to adjust to working from home, balancing work and personal time. So, what do you do to separate your work life from your personal life when you’re working from home?
In a life that seems so distant now, I used to optimise my commute by reading a book or listening to a meditation. Working all day, I’d then use my commute home to decompress before I got home and into my personal life space.
Transitioning to working from home
In March 2020, when the world was put on lockdown. I struggled with the transition to working from home and the impact it would have on my well-being. Initially, I was pleased thinking I’d be saving two hours in travel time each day. In reality, I found that I was starting work earlier, not taking proper breaks and working later. I was receiving and replying to emails at ten or 11 pm and it was leading to burnout fast. Pairing that with the subconscious impact of being indoors, in the same space for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s easy to see the global detriment to health and wellbeing in general for many of us.
Changing my lifestyle
I realised that I had been so conditioned in my daily routine that I was struggling to process such a big change. It was more than just the physical impact of being in the same space all day and night, it was affecting my emotional and mental health.
The commute time that I thought I was saving, was in fact the time I used to set myself up for the day mentally, or unwind after to separate my professional and personal life. What I should have done was take time to figure out or plan a new ritual for myself. Instead, I worked harder and longer and that flame was fading quickly. My eyes would burn by the end of the day and I was getting headaches. The lighting we have at home is different to work environments, where in most circumstances working environments are optimised for employees.
I noticed that I was waking up tired and was less productive, which didn’t make any sense because I was saving two hours a day, right?
Developing new work life boundaries
In order to get better at this working from home lifestyle, I decided I needed to set some boundaries to get to a new way of life. I realised that it was important to clearly communicate these to my teams and colleagues.
I started with my workspace. I had to create a working environment for myself in my home that was separate from my living and sleeping spaces. The change in the environment allows me to differentiate my workspace from my personal space. I did the same with breaks too, so I have lunch in my living room, instead of my workspace at my desk.
I communicated my working hours to my colleagues as a reminder and let them know how they could contact me in an emergency (after hours) and also defined what constitutes an emergency. This felt healthy for me. And it’s important for you to do an assessment of your boundaries, as they’ll be different for each of us and ensure you communicate them clearly and honestly.
Differentiating workspace and personal space are important and a big deal when you’re working from home, whether that’s a few days a week or full time as an outcome of the pandemic changes workforces all over the world to a new way of working. Being firm and honest with my team and without needing to be available 24/7 is healthy for my emotional and mental state too and I feel like there is some sort of balance in my daily life now.
Here are my top five considerations for finding balance if you’re still working from home these days:
- Self-care – wake up and give yourself one hour (read, write, workout, meditate – whatever you need. Just do you lady!
- Workspace – set up a separate workspace for yourself (away from your personal life)
- Managing time – use your lunch break and do something you would usually leave for the weekend e.g. put a clothes wash on, do the dusting or clean the bathroom. When you’re at home, make the most of getting these things done so you can optimise your weekends!
- Notifications – switch off your work email and IM notifications on your phone and stick to your working hours. Put a boundary in place around working hours and communicate these openly with your teams.
- Take breaks – set proper breaks for yourself around your schedule and stick to them (go for a walk, do some breathing, stand in the garden or balcony or even at the front door, read a few pages of a book).
It would be interesting to learn how many of us are still working from home, are back at work or are now observing a hybrid approach to work. Subscribe for free wellness tips, my 11 tips for setting healthy boundaries cheat sheet and access to my Understanding Your Inner Child mini-course. I’m also planting trees for new sign ups on my website >>