The last 18 months has been anything but typical for most of us and, the way in which we live and work has changed almost beyond recognition. As we switched pinstripes for PJs and the commute for the kitchen table, life as we know it morphed into something entirely different. As we head into 2022, many employees continue to work from home in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19 and, while this had some significant benefits, it also results in blurred lines between our work and home lives.
In 2020, around 5.6 million adults in the UK worked from home – an increase of approximately 1.69 million people. During this time, employers and employees alike discovered the advantages of remote working both in terms of productivity and in work / life balance. As great as this is, it can lead to a kind of fatigue as employees struggle to draw a line between their personal and professional lives; with many working more hours than ever before. In this article, we’ll take you through the three simple ways in which you can separate your work and home life this Autumn.
Before tackling the separation of work and home, you first need to take a long, hard look at how you’re spending your time. Begin by tracking your daily activities for a week or so by noting down what you are doing each day – for example, ‘logged on to work at seven’, ‘made dinner at six’, ‘checked emails at eight’. While this may be tedious, it’ll paint a picture of just how much of your time is spent on work related activities. This will also tell you whether you’re an ‘integrator’ where your work seeps into every aspect of your life or, a ‘segmenter’ who is able to set clear boundaries between the two. If you’re an integrator, the following tips will help you to improve your work / life balance:
Get a room
One of the easiest – and most effective – ways of keeping the two parts of your life separate is to have a dedicated space for work. Ideally, this would be a home office, however, for most new remote workers, this simply isn’t an option. A great option here is to take it outside – as working from home and hybrid working becomes the norm, a huge number of employees are investing in a garden office shed as a way of gaining a dedicated work space. As well as providing an office, this solution also helps to further separate work and home by allowing the sense of ‘going to work’ in the morning.
It’s about time
Setting a routine is essential when working from home in terms of productivity and professionalism. While it may have initially been a novelty to be able to log on in bed and attend Zoom meetings in your pyjamas (hey, no judgement!), this really doesn’t help when it comes to compartmentalising your day. To make working from home work for you, you need to recreate the traditional daily time frame – this means setting your alarm, getting dressed and going to your work space at a certain time each day. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the same timeframe as in the ‘before days’ but, you do need to keep regular hours – and communicate these hours to your colleagues – in order to properly define your work day.
Turn off the tech
One of the most important habits to get into when separating your work and home lives is to turn off the tyrants – no, not the guy in the corner office who pays your wages but those devices which keep you tethered to the job. Even when we’re off the clock, few of us can resist the urge to respond to those bips and bleeps which signal notifications from our devices. Far too often, remote workers will disrupt their personal time to respond to emails or take calls relating to work – to the extent that, across the world, governments have begun looking into ‘right to disconnect’ laws and guidelines. While this kind of legislation may still be some way off, you can put this into motion for yourself by switching off devices or deactivating notifications once your work day is done. Where possible, it’s a good idea to have a separate laptop or device for work use so that you can leave this in the home office or garden office shed when you’re not working.
For lots of us, our work represents a large part of who we are and, with the best will in the world, it can be difficult to switch off in order to enjoy our personal time. Having said that, being constantly connected to our jobs can have an extremely negative impact on our physical and mental health and can quickly lead to burn out. Nobody’s saying that you should be sticking to rigid hours with no room for flexibility, however, taking some baby steps toward a healthier balance will improve your wellbeing in the long run – and make you a better employee.