Where does work end and I begin?
There are normally distinct boundaries between home and work life. There is no discernible transition when working at home.
From the dreamy gaze through a train window, to the enjoyment of a podcast while you walk, it is often the commute that forms the bridge between your home to work life. Cleary, special attention to boundaries is needed and a few simple adjustments can make a big difference.
Firstly, let’s consider time. This is about your internal measure that says I need to start work now, take breaks and when to finish work. Just because you are working from home does not mean you have all the time in the world to get the job done. Working from home means many of us can choose our working hours to fit more around homelife. However, this does not mean you should be catching up with emails as you watch the TV. Decide on your hours for the week and stick to it. Your job is never done and there will always be more you could have done but aim for doing ‘enough for today’.
Secondly, let’s consider achievement. You may hear yourself saying “I’ve not achieved as much as I would have liked today” but this may not have been realistic. Without planning your agenda, you run the risk of getting caught up with emails that takes you off down a trail to meet other people’s achievement lists. Spending a few moments at the start of each day before you switch on the computer is essential time for you to decide where you want to focus your energy. Remind yourself - your day should not be solely driven by other’s expectations.
Mostly I notice people are overcompensating for not being seen by striving to show they are contributing. Check in at least once a day with your team to ask trusted colleagues for feedback on your perceptions. This can help you to reign in your potentially unrealistic work goals.
Thirdly, go outdoors briefly in the fresh air whilst being aware of your body & senses. This shifts you away from over thinking and moves you more into being, helping to regulate your emotions.
Finally, experiment with rituals that divide your working life from the rest of your life. For instance, getting into the job role can be assisted by wearing work clothing. This may seem unnecessary if you are mostly unseen, but clothing can help to symbolise your intentions for the day and taking them off at the end marks the transition. Try covering your workspace in a sheet, closing off the space, taking a shower to wash off the day, take a brisk walk around the block, leave your phone in the kitchen after a set time. Think of these rituals as a replacement for the time you would have spent switching things off at work & travelling home. Remind yourself you ‘have a job’, rather than you ‘are the job’. These simple adjustments help work to end and you to begin.
Tara Fox – Lecturer in Psychological Therapies and Mental Health
Tara Fox is an experienced educator/counsellor. She has worked in education since 1999 delivering counselling training and personal development courses in the community as well as FE and HE environments. In 2007 she became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (now Academy HE). Her private counselling practice focuses on relationships, young people and adoption