As someone who has spent the last 10 years working from home, I know only too well how easy it is to slip into over-working mode and suffer the mental and physical side effects. Here are my tips on maintaining a healthy work/life balance as the geographical boundary between home and office disappears.
What does your ideal working day look like?
So, you probably know what you don’t want to experience during a day of homeworking, but do you know what you do want to experience? The first thing I recommend is to get clear on what your ideal working day looks like so you can set your intention and have something motivating to work towards.
What would you love to be saying at the end of your working day? How would you love to feel? And if you are currently feeling out of balance, what does balance actually mean to you? Is it more time with your family? More time for other activities such as running or painting? If so, how much time? Be specific. You can even take this to the next level by creating a vision board which helps you visualise your new working week.
Create yourself some boundaries
With the sharp rise in homeworking and the lines between work and life now more blurred than ever, the need for boundaries has never been more important. What would change for you in your working day if you had a clearer set of boundaries in place? You can set a boundary in a number of ways, involving time, technology and people:
4 Ways you can set boundaries
- Set your non-negotiables with your working hours (not the hours you are paid for but the extra hours you put in in the evenings and at weekends or during your time off). Many people are afraid of how this might look to colleagues or clients, but also bear in mind that this can create a ripple effect by inspiring others to do the same.
- Use technology to give you a break from it. Set limits on your phone so that you don’t receive any messages or emails after a certain time (I turn mine off from 9pm till 9am and it has been a game-changer for my morning routine!)
- Create your own working space if you can (even if that’s just a corner of the dining table) and give others a signal when you don’t want to be disturbed (e.g. wearing headphones or putting a sign on the back of your chair).
- Make others aware of your boundary and any new ground rules. I know this is a tough one but it’s crucial if you’re looking to make changes and improve your own wellbeing. Often there is a lot of guilt surrounding asking for what we want/need. The best analogy to illustrate the importance of this is the ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’ message you get before you take off on a plane – if we don’t take care of ourselves first, we can’t be of service to others.
Begin a simple new practice which helps you switch off
It’s easy to get so absorbed in our work at home that we can’t switch off. Whereas previously the commute home from the office provided a welcome buffer to shift our energy and our thought patterns, homeworking means many of us are left stuck in our heads, unable to separate from our work.
There are many ways in which you can start to switch off more when working from home. My favourite practice is mindfulness. And the best thing is it can be done around the house (although going for a walk out in nature is one of the best ways of experiencing it if you can!) Staying focused in the present moment can free you from your thoughts and provide a mental break. You can practice it by taking some deep breaths at your desk (I love to use and essential oil such as lavender or bergamot to help connect with my senses), by doing a short meditation as part of a morning or evening routine or even simply when washing the dishes. I’ve seen this have dramatic effects on my clients.
I’ve started a little practice of going out in the garden each morning after breakfast to feed the birds and this simple act brings me a real sense of calm and connection. Some people find switch off by losing themselves in creative activities such as drawing, cooking or playing an instrument. Consider what simple switch off activities you could begin, so you can give your mind a break during the working day.
Give yourself permission!
When it comes to balance, in my experience as a Coach, most people know what they need to do (e.g. make time for a relaxing bath, take a proper lunch break, ask for childcare help so you can do some yoga). But they’re not doing it. Often this is because they haven’t given themselves permission.
What’s stopping you from doing the things you know will bring you better balance to your working day? Maybe it’s fear of what might happen, how people will perceive you or you just don’t feel like you deserve to do things for you. Ask yourself how that’s working out for you. And allow yourself to move a step closer to your ideal working day, even if it’s just having a 10 minute lunch break.