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Learn & Practice

Strive to “Work from Home” not “Live at Work”

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Workplace Wednesday well-being post, learn how to create work/life balance even when the lines are blurred.

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

Work-life balance is the holy grail of the modern worker. How to fit it all in, succeed in both your work and personal lives, and maintain a calm mental health state at the same time have been the sought after #lifegoals of many, for decades . 

But now, those who are not actively risking their health by going into a workplace like essential workers are trying to seek this balance in a virtual world with little divide between the “work” day and home. The benefits of our ability to easily connect, despite being separate, can also blur the line between what is work time and what is not. This adds a whole new dimension to these challenges, and when at its worst, you can feel like you are “living at work” rather than “working from home.”

The brain learns from experience. It’s up to us to decide what to teach it.

Dr. Richard Davidson, Healthy Minds Innovations Founder

So, how do we create balance, even when there is no difference in our literal space?

Here are a few tips and tools to create real separation between work activities and life activities within your home:
  • Do everything possible to create a separate work space. The ideal situation is, obviously, to have an entirely separate area with a desk and your work computer that can be walked away from at the end of the day. However, the reality is that many just don’t have the space for this strategy. But, even the smallest action can support this separation like:
    • Physically put away all work (laptop, etc.) outside of work hours
    • Turn on a lamp when it’s time to work, and turn it off outside of work hours as a visual representation (also a great transition technique – see below.)
    • Hang something over the work area to hide it outside of work hours (e.g. a tapestry, blanket, etc.)
  • Take regular breaks throughout the day. Remember when you were in an office and sometimes you just needed to take a walk around, get a cup of coffee, visit a colleague, or stretch? Those activities can still be done while working from home.
    • Set a pomodoro timer to remind you to take breaks
    • Have a spontaneous dance party or go for a walk around the block
    • Schedule a Zoom with a colleague just to check in – no work discussion allowed
    • Eat lunch away from your screen
    • Do work activities that don’t involve the screen – think through a strategic issue with a pen and paper with a change of scenery – like from the couch or outside.
  • Create real indicators of transition. This can’t be faked – you have to develop something that works for you to mark the beginning and end of the day.
    • Go for a “commute” walk around the block
    • Change your clothes (after 5? Time for PJs)
    • Turn on your out of office settings, and turn off your alerts outside of work hours. Be clear with your time boundaries with your supervisor and colleagues – don’t answer that email “just this once”. Set your hours, and stick to them.
  • Define and seek out non-work experiences as explained by this recent article from Psych Central: “Maintaining those activities which remind us of that part of our identity which has nothing to do with work, goes a long way in helping us to remember that we are more than just employees. You are a complex human being, and feeling fulfilled and balanced cannot come exclusively from work. So what are those activities, relationships, routines, and practices that make up the rest of your ideal day/week?”
    • So at 5 pm on a Wednesday – what will you look forward to that is not work-related and can be cultivated and supported during these challenging times?

All of this is really about creating new habits. With Healthy Minds @ Work (our workplace well-being product), our app, the Healthy Minds Program, contains a lot of lessons that explain what’s going on in your brain, thanks to scientific research done by our founder Dr. Richard Davidson. Here’s an explanation of habit formation from one of those lessons:

The brain is a habit machine. It’s built to learn patterns… if we do the same activity over and over, the circuitry of the brain will change to get better at that activity. The more it happens, the stronger these circuits get. The brain learns from experience. It’s up to us to decide what to teach it. We can let the forces around us shape our brains, or we can choose to train ourselves to be healthy and more balanced. So is it really a surprise that we’re all getting stuck in overdrive?

Dr. Richard Davidson

So start your new habit today – make a commitment to your mental health – to support yourself during this time and create healthy habits to ensure you are not “living at work” 24/7.

Here’s a little help from the Healthy Minds Innovations Team for your moment of transition. Try out this micropractice, “A Moment of Rest” the next time you want to support your new habit of moving from work to life.

To learn more visit Healthy Minds @Work, visit this or take our Public MasterClass.

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