Are you working from home or living at work?
Updated: Jan 8
We have all heard this before a 1000 times or more, but its true; we are living in extraordinary times. During the very first lockdown of March 2020, my Supervisor asked me the following question "...are you working from home or are you living at work?"
This question really struck a chord with me. I had gotten into the habit of merely changing out of my pajama top and sitting on my dining table to communicate with work and set up my office space. This became an unhealthy habit. My pajamas are my comfort clothes and I was taking my comfort into my make shift office. As a result my pajamas were no longer associated with sleep and relaxing, they were associated with work.
To add to this, the dining table which represents for me, meal times and the concept of eating together, a place of celebration and family time; had again become associated with work. I began to loathe the dining table. My meal times then moved to the sofa (which is an unhealthier habit because I was eating whilst watching television).
After my supervisor asked me this vital question I realised that I was in fact living at work, and this had became unhealthier day by day.
This question then initiated a chain of movement within me and who would have thought that almost a year on I would be back to working from home again?!
What helped me tremendously, was remembering that I needed to set and maintain my boundaries. I had to treat my relationship to work like it is a person. In a relationship with a person you need to allow yourself space to breathe and not let your partner consume all the oxygen. If your work begins to take up all the space in your home then this relationship has become toxic.
These are some of the changes that I have made to bring my work- home balance back on track. They really have made an enormous difference to my overall mental health and wellbeing.
1) Before starting the day, get dressed. Put on your work clothes and go for a little walk. When you return home it will already begin to feel like you have arrived at work, as opposed to feeling like you have woken up at work. To add further realism to this little walk, take your work bag with you for emphasis!
2) I purchased a light weight, foldable desk. This is one of the best things I have purchased (amongst the ever increasing amount of Amazon orders!). I set up my work station away from the sofa and the dining table, to a little corner at the end of the living room. When I have finished my working day I fold away my desk, put away my laptop and stationary, so I can no longer see the equipment that I associate with being at work.
3) Leave on time! This is so important! This is even more important when you are working from home than it is when you are physically in your work building. Allow me to paint a picture for you as to why. Often, when we are at work we anticipate how long it will take to return home, how long it may take to cook dinner and all the things we have to do once we leave from work. When we are working from home we tend to think "Oh, I will just finish this off it will only take 10 minutes, I don't have to catch the train I'm already home" or " I am home already, I can cook the dinner whenever, let me just send this one last email..." and so It goes. One email turns to 10 and without even realising it is now 45 minutes past clock off time. Seriously, leave on time.
4) When you do leave put that coat back on, grab your bag and go for a 5/10 minute walk. This walk will make you feel that you are on your way home from work. Once you get in, kick off those shoes and gasp that same sigh of relief you do when you enter home from work on a pre-covid day! I know this can initially feel like role play, but the more you get into the habit of doing this the more you may begin to feel the positive effects from it. The significance behind this is that it helps to keep to the same routine you may have had pre-covid and maintaining the routine is great for keeping your mental health in order. Routines are key in keeping us feeling grounded. It is when our brain feels like it needs to make new decisions that we feel stress. Continue your old routines to maintain the structure in your life.
5) Lastly, avoid going back to check emails or thinking "hmmm, I have eaten dinner, let me just finish off that report and I can sleep in for an extra 30 minutes tomorrow...". Don't do it. The worst thing you can do is bring out your laptop again. Once you get into the habit of doing this it becomes very difficult to break.
These are just some of the things that have helped me. Please remember that working from home does not need to mean that you are living at work! We are living in stressful and anxiety ridden times that are beyond our control. The only way we can help ourselves is if we can do everything in our power to take care of the things that are within our reach. The habits we acquire and the routines we adopt are all things we can control. It is when we feel we are powerless that we begin to feel overwhelmed by our anxiety.
As I finish this blog I am closing my laptop and folding my desk to put it out of sight. I hope that you can also clock out of work and leave work where it should be, at work!