The pandemic has had a significant impact on both our personal lives and our work lives. How can remote workers separate work from personal life? Today, as more people work from home, it has become increasingly difficult to separate those two lives. We have seen bedrooms transformed into home offices, kitchen countertops, and kitchen tables becoming the hub of our work lives.
That metaphorical line between work and home has been well and truly blurred to the point that it almost feels natural to be responding to emails in bed and taking meetings while you should be spending time with your kids.
What was a ‘work-life balance’ seems to be severely unbalanced.
While the balance isn’t correct for many, there is no doubt that remote working has some significant benefits. With the reduction in commute and flexibility being just two key benefits to mention. However, some personality types may struggle to differentiate between ‘work mode’ and ‘home mode’ when both take part in the same place.
How to Separate Work & Personal Life
Communication with colleagues
You should work towards creating an expectation with colleagues. If you have shown that you will respond to emails at the weekend or late at night, then they will continue to email you at that time. However, if you lay an expectation that once 5.30 hits, then you are done for the day unless it is something exceptionally urgent. To do this, you should avoid sending or replying to any non-urgent emails outside of your standard work hours.
If you cannot portray this message with just actions, then politely inform your co-workers that you wish to balance your personal life in a better manner and that unless it really cannot wait, you would prefer to avoid work discussions outside work hours.
Tracking your Time
Do you know how much of your time is spent working on urgent/important work every day? Do you work later at night? Try and make a note of how your day looks in small one-hour chunks. Whether that be core work, taking breaks, your lunch break, socialising, sleeping, sending emails etc. Understanding how your day pans out is a great way to understand where changes need to take place in order to balance your home and work life better.
For example, you may realise that you spend a significant amount of time responding to emails in the evening or that you start work an hour earlier than you really should. Once you have clarity on your daily work-life habits, you will be in a better position to make changes. Separating work time from personal time is not easy, especially if you work for yourself. But getting good at it can improve your total wellbeing and prevent burnout.
Reduction of Meetings
Due to working from home, many managers feel as though there is an increased need for meetings on Zoom etc. This is primarily a mindset that they need to keep an eye on employees. However, the constant meetings that last twice as long as they need to are only sucking the productivity of employees. If you’re getting “zoomed out”, then you’re likely not the only one at your company either.
Discuss the number of meetings you are having with your colleagues and suggest laying out a better action plan. You could lay out the planned discussion prior to the meeting and make the time more efficient, or combine all meetings into one meeting to discuss topics at the beginning of the week. The key here is to get as much value from your time as possible, as otherwise, it can really suck the enjoyment out of your work and leech into your personal life time.
Segregate your Accounts
This piece of advice will depend heavily upon what you do as a job, your required software, etc. It can be easy to use the same login for both work and personal life on your laptop and phone for example. However, suppose you segregate your accounts and have a separate login for your work activities. In that case, it can feel subconsciously as though you’re “signing out” from work for the day once you sign out of your account and into your personal one instead.
This has the added benefit of preventing notifications and reminders from pinging up on your phone and laptop, which may interrupt your day with your family, for example. This practice should reduce distractions and allow you to focus on your personal life.
Segregate your Work Space
A workspace changes your approach to work completely. It’s one of the best ways to work productively as a remote worker. This isn’t always possible, depending on your specific scenario. For example, if you live in the centre of a city in a small one-bedroom apartment, then there isn’t much of an option for segregation.
However, if you live in a larger house with a spare bedroom, consider making that bedroom an office only used for your job. The benefit here is that your brain will know that when in that room, it is ‘work-time; otherwise, you are off the clock. This means that subconsciously once you leave that room for the day, you have finished work for the day.
If you don’t have a larger house, an option is to discuss having a “WeWork” budget with your employer. They may be willing to contribute towards you taking a desk at a WeWork or similar establishment so that you can create your own work environment and put some physical space between where you live and where you work. If you are in a busy city, there may be many WeWork locations (or similar) to where you live.
This means you have some options as to where you could work on a given day. For example, if you want to see your friend after work on the other side of the city, you could work from a WeWork close by to them. This option adds significant flexibility to an employee, and studies have shown that an increase of flexibility at work can increase the general feeling of happiness and morale within their role.