Working from home can either be liberating or frustrating. Your personality type, who else is at home, having a dedicated workspace, or the level of autonomy you are given by your managers can all impact on whether or not working at home is a pleasure or a pain.
How we manage the delineation of our work and home domains is vital to helping maintain a good work-life balance and lowering overall stress levels.
Before Covid, about 1/3 of workers made a conscious effort to actively detach from work tasks during their private time. They tended to not respond to work emails at home and only responded to emergency personal communications while at work.
2/3 of workers didn’t, checking personal communication and social media while at work and responding to work communications while at home. For them, the ability to be flexible helped them to cope with the responsibilities they managed for both life-realms. Not many of these workers considered separating out the two life realms and never really switched off from work.
The 2020/21 Lockdowns ended all of that. Research conducted during the first Lockdown in the Spring and early Summer of 2020 suggested that everyone simply abandoned all previous strategies to separate out work and home life. The primary aim was to focus on coping, adapting and managing through the emotional and mental crisis of those months.
Although many had been forced to work remotely during the Covid-19 Pandemic, everyone has different responsibilities, requirements and limitations in merging the home and work domains into one geographic location.
Segmenting Work and Home Technology Use
A key part of reducing stress levels is developing and maintaining a strategy for managing work and personal tech use during designated private hours. If you have never done this before, it could mean that you may need to:
- Use separate technology for work-based tasks versus home-based tasks
- Find or allocate a dedicated desk space and chair that you only use for work, but not for anything home-related
- Map out what hours during the day you dedicate to work-based tasks and what hours of the day you dedicate to home-based tasks.
- Develop a pre-work and post-work routine or ritual that you use to psychologically and physically ‘inform’ your mind and body that you are engaging either in work or home-based tasks. This could be opening a work notebook, making a specific drink you only consume during working hours or walking around the block before or after work.
So many of us use the same technology for both work and home-based tasks. Doing so means that we are less likely to mentally switch off from work during our non-work time. Loading work emails onto our personal phone is one of the biggest culprits here, especially when email notifications are turned on. We find it almost impossible to resist checking a new email – which can so easily cause frustration and worry or can set our minds whirling at a time our brains should be resting.
Not giving our brains time to rest and recuperate after a long day that involves extensive cognitive exercise is similar to not giving our bodies time to rest after hours of intense exercise. Our productivity and energy levels are reduced the following day. Engaging in longer-term cognitive gymnastics during private time can lead to a downward cycle of reduced productivity, longer working hours, stress, anxiety and burnout. We need to give our cognitive functioning after-hours downtime and allow enough time for our brain to recover from a hard-day at work.