For many people, the way we work has been through a seismic shift in the last year. Many expats across Europe have stopped commuting to their office and are now working from home. What started out as a temporary change in work practice for many, 12 months on, is starting to look like a permanent change.
Besides keeping us safe, the international community has shared with us that it has helped them to save money and provide more free time. But not without its stresses. One of the negative effects is that the lines between work and personal life have become blurred.
Many employees were struggling with an ‘always on’ culture, where they felt like they needed to be constantly in work mode even before lockdown. Now, in this work from home environment, where household duties, work functions, parenting and downtime all blend, overlap and compete for time, it’s something that’s become even more challenging.
Almost half of employees say they can’t switch off
A recent survey conducted in Britain by Aviva, showed that 44% of employees say they feel like they can never fully switch off from work when they are working from home. An always-on environment affects life outside of work.
The technology that powers our lives and gives us this great work-from-anywhere mobility, can also trap us and make it feel impossible to not be in touch all the time. When this survey asked, 58% of employees said work has led to them neglecting their physical health, and 55% said it has impacted their mental wellbeing. 43% of respondents noted they are troubled by how much work interferes with their personal life.
Working from home has meant it has become harder for many employees to switch off. But the pandemic has likely affected mindsets in other ways too. With competition in the job market high, workers may feel under pressure to appear they are always available.
However, wellbeing plays a crucial role in productivity. Employees who can focus on their home life, the things they enjoy, and stay healthy are more likely to be productive. So, what can you do to switch off from work if you’re working from home?
1. Create a dedicated workspace
If you have the luxury of space in your home, an office can help to create boundaries. At the end of the day, you’re able to shut the door and step away from work.
For many people however, if a home office is out of the question, creating a dedicated space where you always work from, can make the transition to a work mindset easier. It might be a particular seat at your dining table for example. Having everything you need throughout the working day close to hand can minimise distractions and procrastination too. Routines around non-work functions that can force the blurring of boundaries can also help.
2. Give yourself some time to switch off
One of the challenges of working from home is that you don’t get the downtime between work and personal life that you normally would. Perhaps you used to enjoy reading a book as you commuted on public transport or played your favourite music on the drive home. These routines can help you split the day up and transition from work to home mode.
We’re not suggesting that you set aside the time you normally would commute, but a ten-minute activity at the start and end of each working day can help you separate the two. It could be doing some exercise, listening to an audiobook, or meditating, for example.
3. Set normal working hours
One of the benefits of working from home is that your working hours may have become more flexible. Without a commute, you may decide to start work earlier, for instance. However, creating a routine can help you separate work and personal life. Set out what your normal working hours will be and stick to them.
It’s important that your working hours are well communicated too. Make sure colleagues, clients and other stakeholders understand when they’ll be able to get in touch with you and when they can expect a delay in responses. It can help limit miscommunication and ensure collaborative tasks stay on track.
4. Establish boundaries between work and home
Setting clear boundaries between work and home can be difficult if your home has become your workspace. Setting boundaries can help create a clear distinction.
That means when you finish work, you focus on your personal life and give it your full attention, whether that is time with family, exercise, pursuing a hobby, or simply relaxing.
It’s a process that should go the other way too. Taking time out of your working day to do household chores can blur the lines and you may feel like you need to catch up outside of working hours as a result. If you’re not used to working from home or it’s a temporary situation, this can be challenging, especially if you have young children at home. Where possible, try to keep home tasks to set times of the day.
5. Turn off work technology
At the end of the working day, turn off the technology. That includes checking emails on your phone or personal computer. It can be a difficult habit to get into a first. Especially if you’re used to keeping up to date with what’s happening. However, even checking your emails for a few minutes can pull you back into work mode and mean that projects or other tasks are on your mind for the rest of the evening.
There might be times when you must be contactable. Where possible keep these to a minimum and for certain circumstance only, for example when a deadline is approaching.
As the coronavirus pandemic drags on and lockdowns continue, many people are feeling the strain in different ways. We hear as many people speaking positively about working from home as we hear about frustrations. By maintaining structure around your day and having demarcated blocks of time for work time and non-work time may help you to be more efficient, effective and healthier.