Before the pandemic, many of us prioritized having work/life balance and perhaps took active steps to achieve it. In a pre-COVID world, this was as easy as leaving your work laptop at the office and heading off to a life outside of work. You may have been heading home to your family or a favourite TV show. Perhaps it was after-work drinks with friends before heading home.
For those of us who commuted to an office, there was a physical demarcation between life at work and life outside of work. By leaving the building, many of us were able to mentally unburden and leave work at the office. With the pandemic forcing us indoors, many of us are working from home for the first time. This is a huge transition and presents challenges as it relates to achieving work/life balance.
Work/Life Balance is Important for Your Mental Health
Rest and leisure are essential aspects of self-care. We are unable to perform our best work when we are burnt out, stressed or anxious. When we neglect one aspect of our lives, we tend to see the effects in other areas, too. We are unable to be whole and healthy human beings without balance.
Being able to separate work from the other aspects of life can be especially challenging when working from home. Here are some tips to help you achieve work/life balance as we continue to spend more time indoors.
1. Set physical boundaries for work/life balance
When working from home, it is important to have a designated location for working. This area should be separate from your resting or leisure areas. Even if you are in a compact space, you can achieve this by dedicating a small corner to work. It can be as simple as using a foldable desk, which can be stowed away with the rest of your work items.
It’s important to have a physical separation between “work” and “not work” within your home. This physical separation will also help to tell your brain when you are working and when you are not working.
Another physical barrier can be the clothing you wear. Though working from home allows for dressing however you like, you may benefit from designating specific work outfits. Be sure to dress comfortably, but still in a way that makes you feel confident and motivated to work.
2. Set time-based boundaries
Working from home does not mean that you are always on the clock. Set working hours for yourself and be sure to give yourself ample breaks throughout the day. Let’s say you have chosen 8:00am to 4:30pm as your working hours. When it’s 4:30, stop working! Close out all work-related windows, turn off the computer, and physically move away from the working area. There may be some days where you have to work additional hours to meet a deadline or complete a project. In general, make a habit of having defined working hours, just as you would in a traditional office setting.
3. Set mental and emotional boundaries
A key element of achieving work/life balance is setting mental and emotional boundaries. This simply means being able to mentally and emotionally “shut off” work at appropriate times. Remind yourself that there is a time for everything and that your work will be waiting for you when it’s work time.
Mindfulness is learning how to be present, without worrying about the future or past. When we are worrying about work during leisure time, it is helpful to practice mindfulness. This can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing to remind you to stay in the present moment. Take the time to notice the things around you and appreciate things just as they are.
Developing hobbies and interests is another way to set mental and emotional boundaries. When we take the time to enjoy our interests, it is a reminder that there is a life outside of work. When we are focusing on a passion project, we become so engrossed that we are able to unplug from work completely.
4. Set interpersonal boundaries for work/life balance
Finally, it is important to communicate our expectations to the people we work with. We can politely inform colleagues and clients of our working hours to manage expectations about response times. We can directly or indirectly make it clear that we are only able to answer phone calls or emails during certain hours.
When working from home, others may expect that you are “always on” or are able to handle requests at any time. It is important to be able to politely communicate these boundaries so we can maintain healthy working relationships.
It’s normal to face difficulty in achieving balance. The work we do is a fundamental part of who we are. Work-related stresses may affect your relationships, your home life, and your general mental health. The therapists at Flourish Psychology understand the impact of a fulfilling career on your overall wellbeing. We want to help you to do your best work so you can live your best life. Schedule a free consult today.