Don't Live At Work: How to Create a Better Work-Life Balance
Updated: Mar 29
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, many businesses adjusted their strategies and started allowing employees to work from home. While many employees are back in the office, surveys suggest that 22% of all employees will be working from home by 2025, long after Omicron is behind us.
This large percentage doesn't include contractors who often also work from home.
Many people thought that working from home would improve their work-life balance. While this is true in some ways, working from home also presents a serious problem: you never get to "go home" after work. This can make it difficult to separate "work life" and "home life."
If you're struggling to maintain good mental health while you work from home, we're here to offer you some helpful advice. Read on to learn all about maintaining good mental health when your home is also your workplace.
Identify When Your Work-Life Balance Isn't Working for You
As someone who works from home, you've likely had friends and other loved ones tell you how lucky you are that you don't have to go into a conventional workplace. There's some truth to this, but don't let them minimize your experience. If you're starting to notice anxiety, depression, or other signs that you're letting work take over your life, respect those signs and start trying to fix your lifestyle.
So how will you know if you don't have a strong work-life balance?
First, it's important to note that the way you feel about work may change day-to-day. There's no perfect work-life balance, and that's okay. Your goal is to make yourself feel happier and more comfortable overall.
When you don't have a consistent work-life balance, you're going to experience common signs of burnout. Signs of burnout include (among others):
· Brain fog
· Mood changes
· Appetite changes
It may feel as though going "to work" is impossible. You'll likely have thoughts of quitting more often than not. You may feel like you have to be "on" all of the time or you're not meeting your employer's expectations (or your own).
These are warning signs that you need to make a change.
But what changes should you make?
Create a Designated Workspace
When you're in a traditional workplace, you separate yourself from home by default. You have your own office or station. This is a designated "workspace."
While many people dislike having a designated in-office workspace, it serves an important purpose. It allows you to slip into "work mode" and stay on task during your workday. At the end of the day, you leave.
When you're working from home, you don't get to leave. You need to create your own personal workspace that you can walk away from when the workday is over.
Avoid the temptation to work from bed or from the couch. This can make it harder to decompress when you're done working.
If possible, set up a home office. Having a private and quiet room to complete your work is ideal because you can shut the door behind you when you're ready to "go home."
If you're short on space, set up a home office nook that you don't use for other purposes.
Never Answer Phonecalls or Emails After Work
When it comes to working from home, setting healthy boundaries is essential.
Again, at the workplace, you get to go home at the end of the day. Other employees, employers, and customers don't have access to you when you are no longer in the office (in most situations).
When you're at home, you're always "on." As long as you have your phone on you, you may feel tempted to check and answer emails or answer work-related phone calls.
This means that your work life and your home life are too enmeshed.
It's going to feel "wrong" at first, but don't answer any non-emergency work calls or emails when you're not "at work." Make sure that you set this boundary with your employer or coworkers early on so they know what to expect from you. You're not disappointing them; you're protecting your own mental wellbeing.
How often do you take time for yourself? You probably thought that working from home would give you excess time to relax, but in reality, you're more exhausted than ever! You're not taking good enough care of yourself.
Give yourself some "me time" at least once per week. Do something that you enjoy, spend time with friends, or schedule a relaxing spa day. If possible, take a vacation.
Taking vacation days when you work from home can feel selfish, but it's not. You still need to give yourself time to decompress.
Keep Yourself Active
It can be challenging when you're feeling overworked, but keeping yourself healthy can improve your work-life balance (and keep you motivated).
Start prioritizing exercise. You have the opportunity to get up and move your body during the workday and you now have time freed up due to your lack of commute. Take advantage of it.
Consider starting a yoga practice, use your lunch break to go for a walk, or join a gym. You'll find that the endorphins from exercise make you feel calmer and can give you a clear mind.
Exercise is great for stress reduction, and that's exactly what you need when you're trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Like taking vacations, taking breaks might feel selfish when you start working from home. Ignore that feeling of "selfishness" and give yourself the breaks that you deserve if you want to avoid burning out.
Research suggests that taking breaks can make you more productive during the workday. Giving your brain a break is crucial if you want to continue doing your best work.
When you're "at work" and struggling with your mental health, pause and take a break.
Maintain a Schedule
If you're working from home and you don't have a traditional work schedule, your work-life balance is sure to get thrown out of whack! Yes, you can make your own hours, but that doesn't mean that you're going to schedule them appropriately.
It's tempting to sleep all day and work later in the afternoon, but what is that doing to your work-life balance? Do you still have time to spend with friends? Are you able to do everything else that you need to do with your day?
Try to mimic a standard work schedule, even while you're working from home. You don't have to wake up at dawn, but we recommend starting early.
Make sure that you get dressed for work as well. You don't have to wear a suit and tie, but even putting on a pair of pants and freshening up is a great way to put yourself into "work mode."
While you're creating your schedule, you're going to want to block in time for everything that you need to do. This includes lunch, general breaks, and when you plan on stopping for the day.
When your workday is officially over, don't work overtime. Let it go for the day and return again tomorrow, just like you would with a normal workday in an office.
This is crucial for people who do most of their work online. At least for a few hours per day, make sure that you unplug from everything. Avoid the urge to scroll through your phone or browse the web endlessly after work.
All of this mindless scrolling will waste your time and trigger more anxiety. You're allowed to take a break and check your phone from time to time, but it's in your best interest to put it on vibrate and leave it alone when you're not communicating with friends.
Consider Counselling or Therapy
Even when you're working from home, mental health has to be a priority. If you're still struggling despite taking all of the "right" steps toward mental wellness, it might be time to seek out psychotherapy.
More people than ever are prioritizing their mental health now that services are becoming more accessible. The stigma associated with mental health treatment is disappearing bit by bit every day.
A good therapist will be able to teach you about mindfulness and help you come up with helpful coping mechanisms that will get you through your workday.
Even if you only need someone to listen to you, therapy is a great option. You deserve mental wellness. Between a stressful job, the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, and everything else the past few years has thrown your way, treat yourself to proper mental healthcare.
It's Time to Fix Your Work-Life Balance
Working from home isn't as easy as it seems on paper. If you aren't careful, you'll throw off your work-life balance and experience burnout. Take care of yourself and look for the signs that something is amiss.
Are you ready to seek mental health support? At Your Story Counselling, we aim to help all of our clients reach mental wellness and peace. We offer free 15-minute consultations to make sure that you and your new therapist will be a perfect match. We also have accessible lower-cost options for people who are on tighter budgets so that anyone can give counselling a try.
Contact us to set up an appointment or get more information today.
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