With many of us working from home due to the pandemic, we’ve had to adjust our work routines to fit the new normal and carry on in our professional responsibilities. Working from home has come with its own set of benefits and drawbacks; maybe you’re seeing a noticeable increase in workload, or finding it difficult to adjust your working practices to manage what you need to get done. Whatever your situation, if you find the “new working normal” is starting to negatively affect your emotions outside of working hours, you’re not alone.
The good news is that there are measures to put in place which will reinforce your work/life boundaries and help get you back to reclaiming how you think and feel about working from home. Here are 3 tips to beat the “work at home blues.”
1. Be Deliberate in Where & When Work Happens
The change came quick, and once the initial shock of what was going on outside our homes started to wear off, we had to adjust to a new working norm just as quickly. With that, the definition of the line between “me at home”, and “me at work” may have gone out of the window.
This means that the boundaries between work life and home life likely need to be reinforced. Having a dedicated room or space where work happens is the first step in this process. But if this isn’t possible, and you are forced to work in the kitchen or bedroom, try putting your equipment away at the end of the work day or throwing a towel or blanket over your workstation. This way, outside of working hours, the kitchen stays as a place where we unwind and cook, and our bedrooms don’t become our boardrooms! That was bad, sorry…
The same principals hold true for our boundaries around when work happens in the new norm. Maybe it’s an extra half hour of writing here, maybe an extra 10 minutes reading a report there. Either way, when we’re spending all of our time at home, work can easily spill over into areas it does not belong. This is where time scheduling can help us be as accountable to our time off as our time on. Scheduling can take the form of hourly water/stretch/walk break reminders on our phone, or a printed out calendar filled in with activities between the hours of 5:00pm-9:00am.
No matter the form it takes, spending more time thinking about how to use your time away from work is sure to be a step in the right direction. *Bonus tip* develop your “pleasure schedule” together with an “Accountability Buddy”, to maximize your chances of sticking to it and have someone to share your experiences with!
2. Get Ritualistic
Another way we solidify boundaries in our work and personal lives is through the rituals we typically go through in those settings. For most people, before the pandemic, getting ready for work usually involved putting on pants! Look, I get it, I do. That extra half hour it might have taken us to shower, dress, and do our hair adds up, and being able to roll out of bed and into work in a matter of minutes is pretty appealing. But it may not be doing you any favors in terms of getting your mind and mentality ready to work.
On the other hand, having what I call reverse rituals is just as important to help our minds through the process of leaving work behind at the end of the day. Once upon a time this may have involved closing down your workstation, commuting back from office to home, having a shower, or changing your clothes when you arrive home. Whatever your de-stressing, boundary-reinforcing rituals used to be, I encourage you to think of the ones you can bring back into your day.
For those rituals which may not be realistic anymore, try to think of ways they can be adjusted/transferred into new forms. This goes for rituals within your workday/workweek as well. Missing your coffee break/”venting time” with your coworker? Try scheduling them over Zoom, make a coffee, meet up, and vent. Used to going for a drink with friends/coworkers at the end of a long work week? Set a recurring meeting with them for every Friday and stick to it. Whatever your rituals are, the science behind what they can do to help your mind adjust to new realities is powerful.
3. Give Yourself More ‘Miracle Moments’
Maintaining those activities which remind us of that part of our identity which has nothing to do with work, goes a long way in helping us to remember that we are more than just employees. You are a complex human being, and feeling fulfilled and balanced cannot come exclusively from work. So what are those activities, relationships, routines, and practices that make up the rest of your ideal day/week? I call these practices and activities “Miracle Moments”, because they add balance and relieve stress in areas of our life and mind that we may not even be aware of.
One way to give you a bit of a road map back to your Miracle Moments is to take some time and write out what your perfect (work) day would look like. Starting with the moment you would wake up: What time is it? How would you spend your first 1-2 hours? Would it involve meditation, exercise, prayer, music, food? How would you then get ready for work? And exactly how would you feel when you start working? How many breaks would you take throughout your day, when, and what would you be filling them with? You can map out your entire day and pick a few Miracle Moments to begin plugging into your next workday. Before long, you may find yourself feeling more energized and comfortable with your at-home work routine.
Whether you have yet to find a good groove or have fallen off the wellness wagon, when it comes to feeling good while working from home, being deliberate in how you spend your time while working, and not working, holds the key to a better work/life balance. Hopefully these three tips can give you an advantage while working from home, help you to take back your time, and ultimately provide you with more hope in what we all seem to be searching for these days: a better “new normal.”