With quarantine limitations still in order here in the US, spending so much time at home has brought up some interesting challenges.
Even though I’ve worked from home for two years, this period of time has taught me that working from home can easily blur the lines between work and self-care.
When your home is also your office, bringing work into your self-care space can create some hazy boundaries. This makes it hard to a) find the motivation to work and/or b) switch off from work.
When I was working in an office, I found it easy to mentally check out from work as soon as I left the office at 5pm. But now, I’ll catch myself making dinner at 5 then going back to my computer while I eat (so bad, I know).
Working from home means the same place where you eat, relax, and socialize becomes associated with work.
If you’re on regular Zoom calls, your work meetings are now in your sacred space. It’s almost like inviting your co-workers into your living room for a meeting.
To add to this, your typical forms of escape from work might not be available with quarantine limitations still in effect. For example, the yoga studio, the gym, your local pool, and the coffee shop where you would catch up with a friend.
The places and activities that you associate with self-care aren’t available right now. This can make it hard to disengage from work while simultaneously making you feel like you’re resting too much.
In this post, I’m sharing a few tips that have been helping me to set boundaries so I can better balance work and rest from home.
When working in an office, your commute might have been your signal that the workday was starting or ending. Working from home makes it a little harder to keep a similar structure.
A friend of mine said during the first few weeks of working from home, she would roll out of bed at 7:55am to check in on her computer at 8am. She was enjoying getting the extra sleep knowing she didn’t have to commute. After doing this for a while, she started to crave some time to herself before work. She began getting up around 7 instead to make time for a cup of tea and journaling, which gives her a chance to get ready for the day ahead.
Be intentional with how you want to start and end your day. Think of the time before and after work like your wind-up and wind-down time.
At the end of the day, do whatever you can to get out of the work mentality. Turn off your computer screen, close your laptop, and get away from your desk. I also find that going for a walk around the block at the end of the workday helps to decompress, and it almost feels like a mini-commute (but much more enjoyable).
When you’re spending most of your time at home, it’s tempting to check your phone or computer after hours. Since they’re always in close proximity, you might find it hard to resist checking in if you find yourself with nothing to do.
Create a boundary to help you maintain this separation between work and rest time. That might look like not checking emails before 8am or after 5pm, or setting app limits from 6pm until 8am the next day.
On the weekends, it can be tempting to work when you have the resources right in front of you. If you want a work-free weekend, try putting your laptop out of sight, keep your office door closed (if you have an office), and delete your email app from your phone until Monday.
The thing is that you have to set these boundaries for yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.
Try to create separate spaces, even if they’re small, to separate your work and self-care areas. For example, I have a corner in my living room that I’ve dedicated as my workout spot (which just means it’s where I put my workout mat). It’s not very big, but it’s enough space to do what I need to do.
Another example is sticking to doing work from a dedicated area. If you’ve been using your couch or bed for both work and relaxation, it might be sending confusing signals to your brain. I find that when I work on the couch, I’m less productive and it’s harder to concentrate (even if I’m not watching anything on TV). My back and legs also tend to hurt more because my coffee table isn’t tall enough to work from. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working from these spots sometimes, but it’s better to have a desk and chair set-up that you use exclusively for work.
If you don’t have the space to separate your work and non-work life, try to create different moods in your home.
For example, you can use scents, sounds, and textures (from clothing) for different times of the day. You could use one essential oil during work and another one for after work. Or you can wear form-fitting (but still comfy) clothes during work and change into your comfiest, loose clothing afterward. Subtle changes like this can create the illusion of separation when you don’t have much space to work with.
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