Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Q: Are people potentially working more at home during this time because there’s no separation of work vs. personal life?
A: I find that people are falling into two opposite camps during these times. The “I can’t get myself motivated to work as productively at home as I would in the office” camp and the “I can’t seem to separate my work from home life and have been working nonstop” camp. So, yes, there are a lot of people who are working more hours at home than they typically would in the office right now, which makes sense. As humans, we are incredibly impacted by our physical environment. In fact, our brain loves to label environments – kitchen, bedroom, office, boardroom – and with each label comes a set of expectations and associations we have with that space. “The kitchen is where I eat.” "The bedroom is where I sleep." “The office is where I work.” “The boardroom is where I make presentations.”
For most of us, we associate our homes with a break from work, where we can shed our work role and perhaps take on a new role, as mother, father, partner, roommate, etc. But now, we are being asked to blur those lines and bring our work into our home, which can really mess with and create confusion for the human psyche. Without that clear separation of two distinct and changed environments, a lot of people are having trouble turning work mode off since they don’t have the opportunity to physically leave the space that is associated with work. In addition, I think a lot of people are working more during this time because of the amount of extra time we suddenly find ourselves having since we are unable to congregate in public spaces or physically spend time with people out of our home.
Q: Is it possible to mentally or emotionally separate work from personal life during this time and tips?
A: For those having difficulty maintaining the separation, please know that it is most definitely possible to do so! But possible doesn’t always mean easy. As with most everything in life, it will take a certain level of commitment and effort. Here are 4 steps that you can implement today:
Designate a specific space for work. For those of you quarantining in a multiple room house or apartment, try choosing a single room that you can associate with work and work only. For example, some of you may already have a designated office space within your home. However, if you’re tight on space, try to designate one area for your work, preferably not your bed or couch. Try to get creative and setup a makeshift desk. Containing your work to one space within the home helps the brain to associate just one area with work rather than the entirety of the home.
Maintain boundaries. Right now, it's extra important to maintain the same boundaries you would if you were in the office, which includes your regular work hours. If you normally work from 9-5, continue to push yourself to do so at home. When 5 o’clock hits, send a firm mental message to yourself that work is done for the day and give your mind and body permission to let work go until 9 the next morning.
Give yourself breaks. Don’t forget to give yourself breaks throughout the day, just as you would in the office. Even though you're working from home, it doesn't mean that you need to be working 24/7. For example, if you would normally take 30 minutes to an hour for lunch outside of your office, make sure to schedule that same amount of time and eat in a separate area of your home or outside (if weather and location permitted).
Strengthen social connections. While we may be physically distancing, this is not a time to socially distance yourself. Make it a priority to maintain your social connections, whether that be allocating time to spend with people inside the home or those outside the home, through zoom and phone calls.