The importance of creating a work/home divide during the lockdown

It’s easy for the lines between work and home to blur into one when you’re working remotely. Follow these top tips to distinguish the two clearly from one another and prevent harming your productivity and mental health.

April 27, 2020
Zain Ali

In ordinary circumstances, our home is a relaxing space where we can free ourselves from the hustle and stresses of work and spend quality time with our loved ones. When we walk through the office door, we take on a very different mindset to that of when we’re entering our house. Naturally, this offers a clear distinction to our brains on the times that we should thrive and times that we should relax.

However, as the majority of people find themselves working remotely from home full-time in light of the coronavirus outbreak, some may find that the lines between home and office have rapidly blurred into one. You check updates from the team as soon as you wake up, team meetings have become a group video call in your living room and your desk has become your kitchen table.

When work and home life merge so greatly into one unit, it can quickly take a toll on your mental health and productivity levels, leading to increased stress levels and burnout due to the inability to fully “switch off”. So what are the best ways to keep the two things separate when you’re working from home? Here are our top tips:

1. Dedicate a single room to be your office

Work can easily blend into your home life when you’re on your laptop moving from sofa, to bed, to kitchen table to get your tasks done. You might find yourself finishing up a report in the living room with the TV on and your dog running around. This not only poses plenty of distractions during the day, but also makes it harder to feel like you’re “done” with work come evening time. By putting a physical distinction between the spaces in your home, you’ll not only create a practical space for boosted productivity, but you’ll also be able to physically leave that room at the end of the day and “go home” to a relaxing environment outside of that room.

2. Stick to your normal work routine and working hours

Research shows that productivity significantly spikes when people work from home, and this is likely due to the fact that traditional work hours quickly become neglected. During these times, it’s easy to feel pressured to check work messages as soon as you wake up and work until the moment you fall asleep. Try to overcome this by setting alarms for yourself that adhere to your usual work routine: the time you would usually start, break for lunch, and go home on a normal day in the office. Sticking to that routine will help you boost productivity during the right hours, while helping you get some much needed down time afterwards to continue being productive for the following day.

3. Have “work clothes” and “home clothes”

Another way to create a stronger distinction between the two aspects of your life is through how you dress. It sounds simple, and maybe even silly, but wearing clothes you would usually wear to the office helps remind yourself that it’s time to be switched on. Other similarly simple acts like putting on makeup, shaving, or wearing a watch can replicate the feeling of going into the office. Once your day is over, tell your mind it’s time to make the mental switch by changing into pyjamas or comfortable clothes.

4. Do an exciting activity on the weekends

It’s not only work hours and non-work hours that get blurred when you can’t leave the house, but also weekdays and weekends. To be at your most productive level during the weekdays, it’s crucial that you properly switch off during the weekends to reset your mind. Dedicate certain relaxing activities, such as gardening, playing board games with the family or making an indulgent meal, to be limited for the weekends only. This will help you have a rewarding activity to look forward to outside of your work week, and also create a stronger distinction between work-focused weekdays and fun-focused weekends.

5. Set up a “commute”

One of the main changes that come when transitioning to working from home is the lack of a commute. Without the travel time, you lose that transitional stage of your day where you’re in between work and home and can take some time to slowly go over your to-do lists, plan your day ahead, prepare for meetings and more. Without this, your brain can immediately jump into “work mode” as soon as you wake up. Try setting up an hour every morning (or the length of time it would usually take you to commute) to walk around in your garden or do some easy household chores. Use this time to slowly ease yourself into the mindset you need for work that day. When you’re ready, enter your home office and start the day mentally prepared and energized.

To summarize, the key to avoiding burnout while working from home is the crucial act of distinguishing between work and relaxation. This can come in the form of literal, physical barriers like your home office, or mental checks and self-reminders like getting dressed. Whatever way you prefer, it’s important to find a way that suits you best. In doing so, you’ll guarantee both productive working hours as well as comforting non-work hours.

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