Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Here’s how to achieve a healthy work life balance.
This past year has been tough on most of us. How do you differentiate your working life from your personal life when you’re working from home?
When I was commuting to work, I would literally wake up, get ready and leave. I’d use my commute to either read or listen to a meditation, then work all day and use my commute home to unwind and decompress before I got home. I’d use Saturday mornings to clean the house, which meant I’d have a day and a half to myself.
My struggle working from home
When the world was put on lockdown in March 2020, everyone except keyworkers were told to work from home. I struggled with this. At first, I thought this is great – I save myself two hours in travel time each day. In reality, I ended up starting work earlier, not taking proper breaks and working later. I was receiving and replying to emails at ten or 11pm and it was becoming unacceptable. Especially, with the subconscious impact of being indoors, in the same space for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
How the pandemic changed my lifestyle
What I found was that I had been so conditioned in my daily routine that I was struggling to process such a big change. More than just physically, the impact ran deeper to my emotional and mental health.
That commute time that I thought I was saving, was also the time I used to set myself up for the day mentally, or unwind after. Instead of taking the time to figure out or plan a new routine for myself, I worked harder and longer and was burning out quickly. My eyes would burn by the end of the day and I was getting headaches. The lighting we have at home is different to work environments, where in most circumstances working environments are optimised for employees.
I noticed that I was waking up tired and was less productive, which was mental because I was saving two hours a day, right?
Establishing work life boundaries
I needed to set some boundaries to get better at this working from home thing. I decided to make some changes and to clearly communicate these to my teams and colleagues.
I started with my workspace and instead of working in my bedroom, I decided to use my dining room table. This change in environment allows me to differentiate my work space from my personal space. I did the same with breaks too, so I have lunch in my living room, instead of in my workspace.
I communicated my working hours to my colleagues as a reminder and let them know how they could contact me in an emergency (after hours) and also defined what constitutes an emergency.
Differentiating workspace and personal space is an important and big deal when you’re confined in your home. Being firm and honest with my team and without needing to be available 24/7 is healthy for my emotional and mental state too and I feel like there is some sort of balance in my daily life now.
Here are seven things to consider in finding your work life balance
Self-care – wake up and give yourself one hour (read, write, workout, meditate – whatever you need)
Workspace – set up a separate workspace for yourself (away from your personal life)
Meal prep – prepare some of your meals or ingredients on a Sunday to save time during the week (it’s less dishes and effort in general) so you can get out during the day or after work to decompress
Managing time – use your lunch break and do something you would usually leave for the weekend e.g. put a clothes wash on, do the dusting or clean the bathroom
Notifications – switch off your work email and IM notifications on your phone and stick to your working hours. Put that boundary in place around working hours.
Hydrate – it gets you up from your workspace, away from the screen and allows the body to move
Take breaks – set proper breaks for yourself around your schedule and stick to them (go for a walk, do some breathing, stand in the garden or balcony or even at the front door).
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