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6 simple ways to separate work from home when you WFH

Working from home used to seem like a luxury only some of us got to participate in regularly. That is, until a global pandemic forced many of us to do what we do in the office, at home.

On the brighter side of things, companies discovered that work got done and that productivity didn’t really suffer. That said, we (as employees) are still learning to adapt to our new circumstances.

Because while working from home has its advantages (no commute, and no business casual required), many of us are realizing that it can also bring some sizable challenges—as our work lives and personal lives begin to blur into each other.

Boundaries (they matter)

Not having clear boundaries between working and regular life can affect mood and even sleep. When you work from home, and the physical or "real-life" division between the two environments disappears, it’s especially important to keep these separate and still stick to somewhat of a schedule...even though some days and projects will put you to the test.

Studies link a lack of boundaries between your work and everything else to increased stress (which is obviously, not something most of us welcome). In fact, employees who show greater "boundary control" are typically better at creating a stress buffer to protect them from overthinking and rumination in their off hours.

Simple ways to create clear lines between work and not-work

To help you start a healthy practice of stopping work (and stopping thinking about work) and moving on to the next phase of your day, the team of mental health experts at Foundations has put together a few tips.

A laptop sits open on a desktop with a plant to one side and an open window behind it

@mikeyharris via ​​Unsplash

1. Separate work/life spaces (if you can)

Using a specific room or area of your home for an office can help you to separate your work life from your home life, even while working from home. Leaving an "office" at the end of your work day—and then not going back to that space—can help you keep these two parts of your life from blurring into each other on a daily basis. The act of closing a door to your home office, or even just putting your work stuff "away" can help your mind make the switch from being on the job to relaxing into your free time.

And on that note…

2. Fake a commute

Were you walking, biking, or driving to work before the pandemic? After you shut the door to your office—or close your laptop—step outside (or onto your treadmill or stationary bike) and try a "fake commute" back home. This can be especially helpful for those who have a hard time just walking away from their office and disconnecting from work.

Leaving the house and walking outside can give you the extra time you might need to tick off those last tasks in your head and begin to focus on the next part of your day. Not to mention the positive effect a daily routine can have on your mental health.

3. Chat with a friend

Set up a regular chat with a friend (in person or over the phone) to help you get your mind off work. Science shows that a good connection and meaningful conversation with a friend can positively affect our mood, our health, and our minds.

4. Listen to music, a podcast or read a book

Relaxing music can influence your mood and help you to wind down by decreasing your heart rate. And research shows that reading (fiction) can trigger the part of our brains that use critical thinking and feel empathy, making these stronger as well as helping us to disengage from stress and the stressful parts of our day. Add this to your daily fake commute to help your brain and your body switch into the next part of your day.

5. Do a mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness helps you to become fully aware and present in the moment and has been proven to improve both physical and mental health. Check out our program 5 steps to becoming mindful to get you started in the right direction. Or find out more about the evidence supporting mindfulness in our blog post, 4 evidence-based reasons to start practising mindfulness now.

6. Cook dinner

There are so many benefits to cooking. Whipping up something tasty to eat can help you to positively channel energy, get those creative juices flowing, and help you disconnect from your long day at your desk...to name a few. Not to mention the fact that cooking your own meals can help you save money and eat healthier (which may help with stress long-term). Also, when you involve friends or family, cooking can also be a bonding experience. But by far the best part about it is the reward at the end: Eating!

While most of us won’t be able to incorporate all of these behaviors every day, even committing to (and completing) one can help you distance yourself from the busyness of your workday. Give a few a try, and see which works best for you.

What are some ways you try to maintain clear boundaries between your work and personal life? Let us know at foundations@koahealth.com.