In August 2021 I found myself working at home for the second time after our office sent staff offsite due to Covid-19. It wasn’t so much a conscious decision to “work from home” as one I found myself doing. In March 2022 when I changed employers it became a conscious choice. A choice that made me think about boundaries between home and work when work is in your house.
A faux commute can be beneficial as a signal that work has started. Something as simple as grabbing a coffee from your local café, doing a yoga class, or opening up the windows to let in the world, some bracing wind to waken the senses. There are some who actually get in the car and drive away from their house for ten minutes only to return again in work mode. I know that for me, I suddenly realised that I had gained 30 minutes per day by not commuting. I repurposed that time for a morning walk as I figured it was gifted time that I should take advantage of for my general wellbeing.
There can be other markers of a shift to work – getting dressed for work, then changing clothes at the end of the day, or only allowing yourself to inhabit certain parts of the house during work time, i.e. keeping work “off limits” from the non-work time when you relax in the living room. For some people, wearing slippers and working from the dining room table is just as effective for them as “suiting up”. It’s a personal choice.
During the working day itself it can be easy to let routines slide for the detriment of wellbeing. Not taking a lunch break because things are busy and there are no co-workers able to see you to prompt you to go eat, or spending too long tidying imagined messes in the kitchen at morning teatime. There is a discipline in finding balance. I can’t say that I always get this right but there’s an element of self-management to it.
As I have no local co-workers I sometimes miss the social aspects of being in an office. My husband has gracefully agreed to be my “work buddy” for the purposes of an occasional mid-morning coffee. Luckily the commute to our favourite café is not too far. Sometimes the human interactions during the day take on a new importance that they didn’t have prior to working from home. On Teams calls I make more of an effort to ask colleagues more about their day, their weekends, what they are finding interesting. We are all social creatures at the end of the day, whether alone or not.
How about you? When you’re working at home are you a serial hoodie wearer? Do you “commute” to your local café before starting your day? Do you have markers to know when the day has ended, and “home” has begun? It could be interesting to discuss this topic with your team at your next meeting or virtual water cooler. It may provide insight and inspiration for the maintenance of our ever precious work-home boundaries.