November 1, 2020
Like millions of others, I have been thrown into a new way of working that I had never had the chance to try. I have to admit that I have been taking advantage of being able to roll out of bed into my work chair and not commuting. However, the downfall of this lifestyle is dealing with the complete lack of separation between work and personal life. The fact that I am working in my living room and that my boyfriend also works 3 meters in the same living room is quite a novel situation. How can one relax in the same space where they work?
I'm hoping to provide a few tips that can aid others in their quest to set boundaries, work productively but also having a healthy home life. Of course, everyone has different feelings about working from home, so these tips might not work for you, but I believe the most important advice to remember is to be kind to yourself and not feel guilty about not being able to be a perfect employee/friend/spouse/parents in these hard times. You are doing great and you are enough.
Tip #1 : Create a New Routine Adapted to your Realities
You should adapt your routine in a flexible manner that is realistic and adapted according to your situation. Unless your position does not permit flexibility at all, you should not feel guilty in making your schedule fit with your most productive times and your restraints. For those who are parents, carving out times when distractions are minimal and communicating the challenges with colleagues and supervisors helps with obtaining flexibility. If you have a lot of medical appointments, you can also ensure that they are prioritized in your schedule.
In general, I would suggest ensuring that there are stronger boundaries on the start time and the ending of the workday. It is very easy to be constantly connected, especially since all your equipment is close and handy. However, it is a dangerous precedent and adds stress in a time that should work-free. Studies show that workers log more hours when they work from home than if they work in an office. Setting boundaries and setting a schedule in advance will help focus on disconnecting at the end of the day.
I personally start my workday around 8:30AM and then ensure I close my computer around 5:30PM. I also make sure I have a set length of time for my lunch break. This helps cut my day in half properly. I also enjoy having a set schedule for my home life as well - I like having a morning routine that consists in coffee and scrolling my favorite websites and a night routine that consists in cooking and relaxing.
At the end of day, limit checking emails and messages to the bare minimum. If your position does not have urgent matters in the evening, try to disconnect by putting a "do not disturb" period on your phone. You should also identify what are urgent matters and what can wait until the next day. I personally think of whether there are reasonable expectations that this has to be dealt immediately or whether it's personal expectations that are put on yourself.
Sticking to a similar schedule everyday will help maintain an air of normalcy and help set the boundaries appropriately.
Tip #2: Declutter your Workspace
If you have the luxury to have a separate room to be your office, definitely take advantage of that. Being able to close a door and "end" the work day in a physical way is ideal.
Otherwise, it is still possible to set boundaries - I personally have a corner of the living room that I have designated as my workstation. After the day, I do not go to that designated space anymore. This permits a real "disconnect" to allocate different parts of the apartment to work vs play.
Another great way to feel more control in your workspace is to have a clean and organized station. When I feel frazzled, the first thing I like to do is to organize my work space, remove random pens, and whip out my notebook. I truly believe decluttering your space helps declutter your mind as well.
Tip #3: Give yourself a Break
Your daily routine should include breaks that help disconnect from work, which can be anything that helps you feel lighter and positive. It can be light stretching and yoga, taking a walk, cooking or listening to some upbeat music.
I personally am a great fan of cooking while listening to a podcast and taking long walks right after work. Right before bed, I also like to unwind with reading. Others could enjoy a long bath with a comedy and some scented candles.
I believe that everyone should figure out what their favorite way to relax is and try to prioritize that hobby or activity in their daily life.
Tip #4: Be Nice to Yourself
Finally, I think it's important to be compassionate with yourself. Everyone is going through a lot of stress and many are feeling depleted and unproductive. You should do what you can to get through this time, whether it's accepting you can have an unproductive day or working outside of a typical work schedule. Don't forget to prioritize your mental health and work everyday at maintaining little happy moments.