In case you hadn't noticed, we've just gone through a global pandemic on an unprecedented scale. What?? No way! I hear you asking yourself. Well, said pandemic has turned the entire world upside down (amongst offering up a good amount of opportunities as well - check out why and how here!).
I actually feel like now that the panic has subsided a bit and our 'new normal' is turning into just our 'normal', my ability to turn the good old work brain off and reset has become easier and easier to do.
It's taken me copious amounts of energy, time and effort in order to finally come to peace with the fact we DON'T have to be at the beck and call of Teams notifications 24/7...and I'm here to share my tips for maintaining a good balance that benefits your physical and mental health!
Have a separate work space, laptop, phone.
Because quite a few of us work from home majority of the time (especially in corporate environments), it's quite easy to fall into the trap of "I can work flexibly from my couch if I want to, or even from bed!". And yes, I agree it is a benefit to working from home knowing you have your own keyboard and mouse that Sally from finance didn't spill her tuna lunch over the day before, as well as being able to get your chores done during the day without letting it pile up for the weekend.
But in the long-term, mixing work life with personal life to the extreme as we have done the last 2 years can bring some negative consequences - as much as we want to work from the couch watching the latest Netflix show, it is a breeding ground for procrastination; as well as the fact that we associate the couch for work as well as comfortable after-work living arrangements.
It makes it hard to switch off. Choose a nice separate work space instead - even the dining table set up works fine!
I would also highly recommend having a separate work phone or separate Google accounts for personal vs work. It makes it easier to not switch to Facebook Messenger whilst writing out an email, for example, and you can literally switch your work brain off when you turn your work phone off - no more pesky Teams notifications after hours!
Take regular breaks from work (even during work hours)!
Gone is the 9-5 (oh no, I'm 1min over my 30min lunch break!). Let's face it - if you're in a corporate work environment, no one even blinks an eye if you leave at 4pm rather than 5pm anymore.
In fact, studies have shown that the longer we work without breaks, the more prone to distraction we are.
Embrace the freedom to take little breaks whenever possible, especially after accomplishing a task. Humans were not wired to work continuously - we need to take advantage of that and give ourselves a reset. Don't just wait til hometime to go to the gym, or take a walk, or grab a coffee. Do that when you feel the need to!
Block out time in your diary for appointments or family time.
Leave the guilt of "I need to do this outside of work hours" out of your life. Many employers adopt the "wellness and family come first" approach - and if they don't, maybe it's time we look for another job!
I highly recommend actually physically blocking out time in your diary for important appointments, or walks with friends, or to run errands - so no one can schedule meetings during those times. Now that we work primarily remotely, we have the freedom to actually live our lives, alongside the jobs we have - which is a pretty cool thing. Doctor appointments, picking kids up from school, going to the bank (which could only really be done between business hours anyway) - can be done stress-free now, so we need to take advantage wherever we can.
Long story short, as long as we get our job done, everyone is happy!
I will be the first to admit that I struggle, even now, with switching the brain off and feeling guilty for not working until it gets dark. But at the end of the day, we dedicate around 1/3 of our life to work. That's an insane number. We need to balance it out with things that make us happy, bring us joy, and most of all - allows us to spend time with loved ones and our hobbies.