With more people transitioning to working from home, the ability to balance your at work and off work life has been a challenge for many. I have personally spent most of the post-grad life working from home and have developed ways to better balance being at work and off work while in the same space.
First things first, I will say that if your job was not balanced when you weren’t working from home, it will likely be worse when switching to remote. If your job does not respect the balance there is little that you can do as an individual. But there are still things you can do to help make a division.
Set Clear Work Hours
When you physically go to your job, you have a set time you are there. It should be no different while you are at home. I start my work day at 6:30 am, have a lunch break at 11:30 am, and I am off the clock by 4:30 pm. This is how it is every day, no matter what. I’m currently benefiting from using a completely different computer for work than my personal device so I get to literally turn work off at the end of the day. If you don’t have that luxury, still closing all of your work stuff and having notifications muted while not working will accomplish the same.
While working from home it is so easy to take care of off-work things during the day. Do not do this, because it also messes up work-life balance. If you are in your set work hours, you are working. If you allow yourself to do non-work during work, it is too easy to do the opposite. Balance requires separation.
Have an Interruption Activity
Okay you have closed out of all of your work stuff, now what? This is when an interruption activity should take place. The idea behind an interruption activity is to break your work state from your relax state. A workout is a great example of an interruption activity and is what I usually go with. Cooking dinner, going for a walk, or playing with your kids or pet can also all work. Getting up and away from work physically to do something else can help break you from it mentally, which helps balance your day out.
Separate Work From Your Personal Accounts
I know this isn’t always possible, but I make a significant effort to not use personal email and phone for work. For my full-time job this is really easy, but for my part-time and freelance it isn’t as easy. But I still strive to keep my personal stuff away from work. Especially keeping my cell phone separate, because it can be too easy for a boss to text you asking for something when you are off. I keep my phone number to very specific people who must have it and do not share it in any other way. And for my part time job teaching, I made a Google Voice number that my students can use to contact me if they must but I keep my personal number to myself.
In previous work where I had to use my personal phone for work, it was much more difficulty to separate work from life. It was too easy to work on something right away because it would be faster to do it now than waiting. But this lack of separation took a huge toll on my mental health. I suggest if you are in a similar situation, and you get sent a request to do something outside of your normal hours, make a note of it as something to do first thing tomorrow instead of doing it then and there. If your boss has an issue with that, than that is a work culture issue you probably can’t resolve and may need to find work elsewhere.
At the end of the day, if you are not committed to finding balance and if your job is not supportive of you wanting balance, you will likely never have work-life balance. It is something you have to strive for unfortunately, but it is well worth it for your mental health.