There are, as they say, two big problems with working from home: not going to work and not going “home”.
Maybe you get side-tracked by “just tidying the kitchen” then realise the whole morning has gone. Maybe you check emails as soon as you wake up from a bad night’s sleep, then have an unproductive day before going straight from spreadsheet to bedsheet for another bad night’s sleep. This is neither healthy nor sustainable.
Here are three mini case studies.
- Sarah worked from a central London office. Her day used to consist of wall-to-wall meetings with different clients across the capital. Now it consists of wall-to-wall zoom meetings from her kitchen table. Despite being able to service more meetings now, she feels both the quality of her life and her productivity have nose-dived.
- Jordan is freelance and has always worked from where he lives in a house-share. This was fine when he was the only one working from home as he could use the sitting room as his base. Now, however, his housemates also work from home and it’s too disturbing to work in the communal sitting room. So he now works from his bedroom – which is where he also spends his leisure time online. “Physically it’s the same being at work and not at work. I’m finding this psychologically cramping,” says Jordan.
- Harry’s routine used to be: get up, shower, dress for work, grab a coffee on the way in and hit his desk “running”. His routine now is: get up, hit the desk, faff about, make a coffee, faff about some more... Harry’s lost his mojo.
In all these cases, the old boundaries and transitions have disappeared. Sarah has lost the transition time between meetings – time when she would review the previous meeting, make notes and action points for the next one. Jordan has lost the physical transition between the sitting room (his work space) and his bedroom (his leisure space). Harry has lost the transitional rituals of shower, dressing for work, commute and coffee.
The consequences for all of them are a drop in productivity, a reduction in mental state/energy and lower quality of life.
Because the old boundaries and transitions have disappeared, the solution is to create new ones.
- At the start of the day, mark the transition to work. Maybe have a home coffee cup and a different work one. Dress for work: if you don’t want to go “full-on business suit”, maybe put on your work shoes in the morning and then take them off at the end of the day to indicate you’ve finished.
- Keep work separate from home. If you have an office at home – leave and close the door at the end of the day. If you don’t have a separate office, put all your work into a box or drawer and close it till tomorrow.
- Log out of work email, close all work-related programs on your computer.
- Manage your phone. Don’t have work email alerts turned on. Turn off your phone outside work hours – even put it away in your work box. Maybe buy a new phone to distinguish between work calls and social/family ones.
- Write a “to do” list for tomorrow and leave it in your office or your work-box/drawer.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a dull girl: it’s important to have balance. These transitions should all help you make the separation between work and home and give you a more balanced, sustainable and productive life.
Let’s be careful out there!
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