If you are under 50 and working mostly or entirely from home – as is 71% of today’s workforce – there’s a pretty good chance you’re struggling to get things done, while at the same time feeling tired and over-worked. More than four out of ten people voice that complaint. And, in fact, people are working more. The time being saved from commuting has been redirected to work versus leisure activities.
Another cause for increased fatigue is the loss of “downtime” that has been a byproduct of the blurred boundaries between personal and work life. Sliding back and forth between work and non-work has created a mindset of work always lurking behind the corner, 24/7. Even weekend days seem to be like the rest of the week.
How can I become more productive, more energized, and have balance in my life? The short answer is: Structures!
As a society we extol flexibility and freedom of movement. We like to do what we want when we want. We often chafe at the idea of having to abide by externally-imposed order. Yet there are circumstances where we function best when following defined routines. Sleep hygiene and proper nutrition are both best maintained when we keep regular habits. Similarly, think about the behaviors and practices when working at the office that made it clear in our minds we were not at home, but rather in an environment geared to a specific set of activities and goals. As a consequence, we had downtime – the part of the day we looked forward to when we leave work behind and enjoy our personal lives.
What structures can bring back that work/life balance? Here are a few. No doubt you can come up with others that fit your lifestyle.
- Get dressed for work, even at home. Start the workday with a concrete dividing line from home life.
- Say good-bye to your family and “arrive” at the office – the part of the home used for work – at the same time every day and leave at the same time daily. Don’t assume, “An hour here, an hour there, what difference does it really make?” Time defines us. Don’t take it for granted.
- Work during work hours. Stay focused on the projects and tasks that you have to get done and keep personal intrusions to a minimum.
- Take breaks as you would at the office, without going “home”. Have food prepared like you used to.
- Go “home” at the end of the work day. Leave as you did before. If you have to take work home with you as you often did, do it – but not by going back to your work space. Keep that boundary intact.
- Change clothes and relax when you get “home”. Now is the time to reconnect to family and relish your downtime.
Mental fatigue can be at least as exhausting as physical fatigue. When you have the clear awareness about where you are and what your role and purpose are at all times, life becomes so much less stressful and so much more fulfilling.