Work / Home Boundaries

With COVID cases rising, more local restrictions, working from home is likely to remain for some time. After more than 6 months of working from home we are learning about some of the challenges. There are those of us who are working from home veterans. We’ve already faced, and overcome these challenges

Blurred Lines

Employers feared the distractions of home would hit our productivity. But it seems the occasional loading of our washing machine has had no ill effect. Early in lock down it was different. Schools were shut, there was no other childcare. Working parents had to juggle jobs and homeschooling. Those days appear to be behind for us (fingers crossed!)

As the lines have blurred between home and work life, it’s the employees, not the employers, who’ve suffered. Since March we’ve been working longer hours. There are several factors at play: economic uncertainty leads to job insecurity, for those who’ve suffered presenteesim managerial oversight now lack clarity as to how their contribution will be judged, not being able to switch off; metaphorically and literally

Longer hours, combined with a lack of downtime, has negative effects. Our productivity drops, our creativity diminishes. Fatigue builds up, stress increases. Before we know it, our health can be in a downward spiral

Creating Boundaries Between Work and Home

Before COVID, office workers had natural boundaries between work and home. The office was in a different building, even in a different town. The ‘joy‘ of the commute provided an opportunity to push our thoughts away from work and towards home. We need to recreate those natural boundaries:

  • Before all of this we had a routine. Work, for many of us, started and ended around the same time of day. There’s no reason to change our routine purely because we’re no longer commuting. Working from home isn’t a treat. For many, it’s now a necessity. Don’t feel guilty and work longer hours just because home has become the office. If everyone is working from home, there’s no need for special treatment: good or bad
  • If your day started and ended with a commute, mimic it. With something enjoyable. At the start of the day, check your emails and diary, then go for a walk. Time away from home to contemplate the work day. Schedule something to mark the end of your day: exercise, bake a cake, read the kids a story, listen to a podcast, read a poem, write a poem, take a shower, the list is endless. Go for a drive, if that’s what you enjoy
  • Leave ‘the office’. Those fortunate enough to have a study door, shut it. For others, there are ingenious solutions available to conceal your workspace, e.g. folding, collapsible desks. Some employers provide a small grant for homeworking essentials (beyond IT equipment, which they’re required to provide). Failing, that a blanket thrown over your desk is a very cheap way to head home
  • Don’t create reminders which can tempt you back to work. Yep, switch off those pesky notifications. Ideally your work devices and home devices should be different. And if they are, switch off your work devices at the end of the day. If they’re not, then mute work related notifications once you’ve clocked off. (I often advise to switch off notifications all the time)
  • Key an eye on yourself to make sure you are sticking to your new routine, you remain healthy. Note down how many hours you are sleeping, how long you are working. Agree with a colleague to hold each other accountable for the number of hours you’re both been spending in the ‘office’
Different Times, New Routines

If heading into the office is no longer an option, we need to find new ways of separating work from home. We need to create a new routine to protect our creativity, our productivity, our wellbeing, our health. There are many things we can do to help us stick to our new-found routine

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