Covid Work Life Boundaries

It’s hard to believe we are in October. In some ways this year seems to have dragged, and yet I wonder where the time has gone?

I spoke to a fellow parent at the school drop off on Monday and we both agreed that each week just starts with a bit of a groan right now. Same thing, different week.

My husband and I have both worked from home since February (like many others throughout the world), and so it just feels same-same, as you start a new week. Starting the week with school drop off, head back home and into the home office for video calls.

It’s now Friday again and the weekend will soon begin, but quite honestly, I am struggling to switch off, wind down and really relax on a weekend now. My office is ever-present, and so it becomes far too easy to just step into the study and answer that one email or finish that final report. Then that one email becomes me at my work PC for a good hour or two as I become absorbed in just closing off that next task, and then the next.

This weekend I found myself pacing the house. My son was at a play date, my husband was watching the Grand Prix and I felt jittery, a little restless and unsure of what to do. The clothes washing had been done, we’d just eaten, the house was generally tidy. I didn’t feel like I wanted to read a book or watch television, and so I found myself just sitting down at my desk and logging on. 

I realised then I had to put some clear rules (or boundaries) in place to create a better separation from my work. There were plenty of other things I could have done at that moment, but I chose work. Why? On self-reflection work gives me a sense of achievement, and right now a different connection to the outside world. I do enjoy what I do, and I feel accomplished when I deliver my objectives or make a difference to a colleague’s day. I find that I get inspired by the positivity that comes with closing off something I’ve committed to delivering, and that is what keeps pulling me back.

At the same time, this is not healthy. Our brains need to rest, and what I’m also finding is that my sleep is becoming impacted as I’m not shutting down at night, and I feel constantly in work mode, having to physically stop myself from checking my diary, my emails and missed calls.

So what boundaries have I given myself?

  1. Turn off my computer at the end of my day.  Whenever my day ends, that moment when I’m ready to walk away from work for the day, or at the end of the last meeting I’ve committed to, I now shut down my computer. Putting it in sleep mode makes it too easy to just press the space bar and fire it up in an instant. 
  • Work phone stays in the study with my PC. About a year ago I separated my work and personal life by investing in a second iPhone. However, I still carried both around, just in case. My personal phone is social, and so all my friends reach me on that. My work phone is used throughout my work week. Leaving my work phone in the study with my PC, stops me being tempted to check for texts or emails or invites. Whilst at times I want to sneak in and take a peek, the temptation is overruled by my common sense – what I don’t know about I cannot act upon.
  • Weekends are sacred. This will be my biggest challenge I feel. There are times on the weekend where I have down time, and I don’t do down time very well. Plus, I hate a full inbox on a Monday morning. But I need to keep reminding myself that my mind needs to recharge, my health and well being rely on me being at my best, and that our weekends are meant to be focused on family and friends.
  • Walk without Technology. Each day I try to take a walk or get out for some exercise. Without my work phone and away from my computer and my office study. If I was in the office, I go to the coffee shop with a colleague, and possibly spend a while connecting without staring at a screen. This little recharge each day is brain-saving. Thirty minutes to an hour of just me time allows my mind to wander into weekend planning and other non-work focused thoughts.

These may seem fairly common-sense and straight forward rules. For me it will take discipline and focus. Right now, when our lives feel so blended and work, family and household seem wrapped together, this separation is even more important to keep us well and happy.

What do you do to help you disconnect and recharge?

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