Work-life Balance When Working From Home
As a psychologist in private practice in the Bay Area, my caseload is primarily tech professionals. The state of California is under a Shelter in Place Order issued last week. My clients are beginning to share some common themes: cabin fever, loneliness, triggers for past traumas, and difficulty with work-life balance. Home was previous the place to retreat from work and they are feeling unsettled by having to settle in at home.
Poor work-life balance and Burnout are definitely not uncommon experiences in the world of tech. My therapy group Beat Burnout: Rekindling A Sustainable Passion for Work, covers themes such as feeling overwhelmed, and disillusionment with work. COIVD-19 social distancing requirements and the work from home mandate is presenting unique challenges that invite us to have unique solutions. I have reprised some work life balance strategies for anyone struggling to be productive at home.
Continue to Clock In and Clock Out
One of the major psychological and behavioral difficulties of working from home is the lack of external motivators, or cues that the work place naturally provides. For instance, putting on your badge or name tag, sitting at your desk, and the observing eyes of your colleagues. These cues help us maintain focus and stamina. In their absence, sleeping in may become an option. Meetings may be cancelled or held via zoom or other video conferencing technology, but for some of us it demands less attentiveness than being in person. After all, your bottom half may still be in pajamas. To get the mind and body primed for productivity, set a time to start your remote work day, a lunch break, and a time to end the day. This will provide the scaffolding for your regular work ethic.
Designate a Work Space
Your office or cubicle is adorned with all the trappings of work: pens, company phone tree, reference books, etc. It has been conditioned as a place where work happens. It will greatly support productivity to setup, a place in your home where work will occur. Many people due to high bay area rent prices have a one bedroom apartment. Their partners may also be working from home. This will take some conversation and reinvention of the usage of space. For families who have babies and children home as well due to daycare and school closures, rotating the use of that office spot while the other entertains the kido(s) could be a methodology that works.
Get Dressed for Work
I know, this one seems unnecessary but hear me out and try it if you wish. Ever wonder why sports teams wear uniforms or why doctors where a white lab coat? It is because clothing communicates purpose to others and ourselves. A particular garment evokes both the role you are trying to portray and the essence of the behavior you wish to internalize. For example, the suit for the business deal, the blazer for the interview. It follows that you are sending a conflicting message to yourself when you stay in your pajamas attempting to work. You need not go all out in your usual work attire, but consider wearing yesterday’s jeans and a top that you would not mind being seen in at the grocery store.
Take Advantage of the Opportunity for Work-life Integration
Perhaps we can wield working from home to our benefit.
A few years ago, the term work-life “integration” emerged in the literature. Work-life balance connotes a “teeter totter” act between work tasks and life tasks where one is always more present than the other. Integration on the other hand signifies a harmonious co-existing of both work and life. Perhaps we can wield working from home to our benefit. In the moments between work tasks one could do many things they are often too tired to do when returning home from a long workday. Things such as: prepping a meal for dinner, laundry, watering plants, walking the dog, reading a leisure book, journaling, self-care, reaching out to a family member, organizing, and my personal favorite dancing around the house. If you are home, allow yourself to be home and enjoy the nest you have created for yourself. It was not until I was home all day on maternity leave that I was present to appreciate that my living room gets great lighting around midday. I invite you to savor and find joy in your surroundings.