In the past few months, nearly every one of us has experienced adjustments to our daily lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the significant transformations for millions, the world over, has been the move to working from home.
Initially there were concerns that productivity would take a dive, but it seems our problem hasn’t been turning off our work. As Joan C. Williams writes in The Harvard Business Review, “Americans’ workday has increased by 40% — roughly three hours a day — the largest increase in the world.” Many managers and employees are putting in excess hours — and the lines between their professional and personal lives are becoming more blurred than ever.
Avoiding a state of “permawork” requires setting boundaries and having a clear end to the workday. That’s important because the spillover of work into our personal and family lives can take a toll on our mental and physical health. What’s more, consistent overworking can lead to burnout.
One strategy that may help: Separate your workspace from your living space. Even if you don’t have a spare room to work in, you can create a dedicated workspace — for instance, a certain corner of your living room where only work happens. Then, when you leave this area, your brain gets the message that you have also “left work.”
Another technique to ensure that your work time and “you time” don’t bleed together: Stick to certain structures and routines. “Focus on work during regular workday hours, then stop work and shut off your devices at around the same time each evening if you can,” Richard Slatcher, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, tells Thrive. Unplugging at night, Slatcher points out, is going to benefit your work and your relationships.
This Thrive Microstep can help you find balance.