6 Ways to Effectively Switch between Work and Home Life

Rapidly shifting to a working from home model has created an environment that can feel very blurred at times. When you’re sitting on a Zoom meeting at 3pm still in your pyjamas you have to wonder whether you’re effectively separating home and work life. Furthermore, without the commute we likely approach home life carrying the stress of our workday.

A recent report from Allianz has revealed that 45% of Australian employees find one of the challenges since the pandemic is that line between work and person life is blurred. Dr. Adam Fraser, the author of The Third Space, has coined the gap between our work and home space as something we need to rediscover in a hybrid world.

Here are some quick changes you can make that will help build the gap between work and home life.

Create physically different spaces

In the Allianz report, 35% of employees said it was hard to turn off work related technology. Finding a room or area of the home to call your work space is important as it’s somewhere you can enter and exit. Work related items should not leave that space, nor should personal tasks enter it. If you wouldn’t take it to the office of old, then it doesn’t belong here. Leave your work phone, laptop, and notes in that space at the end of every day and don’t enter it until the next day.

If your smartphone is used for personal and work reasons and as such will be with you at all times. Leverage Focus modes on Android and iOS to turn off notifications from work applications outside of 9-5pm and vice versa for personal notifications such as social media. Both will be distracting when you don’t need them to be.

Brush your teeth

In a recent CIO event, one speaker mentioned that she won’t look at her emails or start a single work related task until she has gotten showered, dressed and brushed her teeth. She knows, like we all know, that if you skip any of those things and just glance at your work emails, it might be 3pm before you realise. Making a habit of maintaining those tasks that were non negotiable in the past will set you up for a more successful day. The same applies for the clothing you wear. Opting for a working outfit, without being too formal, will set your brain into work mode. Changing into your home clothes afterwards will immediately change the way you feel.

Replace the Commute

For many, commuting to work was a one hour period where you could mentally prepare for the day or decompress from the day that was. This was often a period where you could catch a podcast, listen to music or generally tune out from the world. Put those commute times back into your diary and guard them with your life. Spend 30 minutes before you start work walking outside. When you finish your day, do the same, or use an app like Calm to reset your mind and bring you home without the stress of work on your shoulders. These periods of time can be great for calling friends and family, running an errand or finally finishing that book you started before the pandemic began.

Manage your breaks

It’s normal to see some work days where you’re seemingly in back to back meetings. And you’re sure this didn’t happen in the pre-COVID days. Start using tools in Outlook to change 30 minute meetings to 25, one hour meetings to 50 minutes and so on. When you create meeting invitations you’re programming breaks automatically. Encourage others to do the same. Add blocks in your diary three times a week to have a one hour break at 3pm. Block some time for lunch.

Looking at your diary on a Sunday and cornering blocks of time is setting you up for a manageable week with less stress. Then use those gaps for meaningful moments. Whether it is time with the family or some exercise or even just sitting outside with a book. Ending the day after eight hours of back to back meetings impacts your performance the next day. It also impacts the quality of time with family after hours.

Explore a Hobby

Interestingly, the Allianz report showed that 34% of employees found it hard to make time for themselves. The only way to find time for yourself is to make it and protect it. Blocking the first half of Monday and last half of Friday allows you to wind up and wind down each week. Monday morning allows for adequate planning and preparation while Friday allows for reflection and adjusting to the weekend ahead.

Finding something else, beyond work and home life, is important too. It could be a short course you do online, a new skill to learn, a vegetable garden or even learning a new language. Resources to embrace a new hobby are abundant and accessible largely for free online. Giving yourself something to look forward to, something to absorb during your breaks and something to talk about with others. This will not only keep you interested but also make you more interesting.

Have the conversation

Once you’ve set some new ground rules and ways of working, you need to communicate this to all impacted. This includes your manager, your team mates but also your friends and family. Informing them about how you plan on working will set expectations clearly. For your family, they’ll appreciate knowing that when you’ve finished work you will be 100% attentive to them. For your workplace, they’ll get the best of you at the right time. A focus on quality over quantity is important here. A family dinner with your work phone on the table is a no no and it’s these changes that make the difference. Adopting even one of these changes will improve the way you manage work and life.

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