Separate work and free time in the home office – this is how it works

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Working in the home office blurs the line between working hours and free time. On the one hand, you can do a little laundry in the middle of a busy work day. On the other hand, you may find it difficult to sit down in front of the TV in the evening without feeling guilty because you don’t at least have your laptop in front of you.

The pandemic has definitely made the demarcation of work and private life even more complicated. For many families, the home has become a gym, office and school at the same time. And although you don’t always have to have a clear dividing line between home and work, it is still helpful to be more present at work and to be able to fully enjoy your free time, says the psychotherapist, author and presenter of the podcast “Mentally Strong People, ”Amy Morin.

1. Set up a work area

Most people are not granted the luxury of having their own home office. If you are lucky enough, you should only work in the office. And when you’re done with work, you leave the room and leave work behind.

If you don’t have a separate office, you should create a work area. It doesn’t have to be where you work all day (like the dining table or couch). Instead, it can be where you keep your work-related items when you are not working. After work, you can take your laptop, stacks of paper and other work-related materials completely out of sight. Simply store them in a drawer or in a closet.

Just putting these objects away can bring about a psychological relief in your free time. Because this is how you signal your brain that it has permission to relax.

2. Change your clothes

Some people may feel better dressing nicely in the home office. But it is not absolutely necessary to dress smartly. Those who prefer casual clothing in their own four walls can still use them for their own psychological advantage.

Just change your clothes when you’re done – even if that means swapping one pair of sweatpants for the other. By changing into new clothes, you are helping your brain to recognize that it is time for something new. It doesn’t matter that it’s just a change of outfit in the same style (as opposed to downgrading from business suit to sweatpants).

You may even find that you prefer to dress up in your free time rather than for work. While you wear your pajamas as business casual for your zoom calls, trips to the supermarket may actually justify an upgrade of your wardrobe. Either way, changing clothes can help you differentiate between work and free time.

3. Pretends to be commuting to work

Under normal circumstances, commuting to work often helps prepare for the transition between work and home. It doesn’t matter what you do on the journey: you can listen to a podcast while on the train or do the daily phone call with your mother. It is the physical distance that helps us to create a certain psychological distance as well.

Therefore, it may be helpful to fool yourself into commuting. A walk around the block can be enough. With such a daily routine, you can signal to your brain that you are now moving from your home to work.

For example, Morin knows a man who walks out the back door of his house every morning as if he is driving to work and then just steps back in through the front door. He swears it’ll help him feel like he’s “going back to work”. Although it only takes a minute or two to commute to work, it makes him feel more effective.

4. Uses different views for work and personal apps

If you use a lot of apps for work – for example for your work emails or your Slack channel – you can put them on a second screen page of your smartphone for the sake of clarity. Separating your leisure apps from your work apps can help resist the temptation to check your work email at any time of the day.

It can also help you enjoy your “free time” apps more. Because you are subconsciously giving yourself permission to have fun now. In order to feel as good as possible in the home office, you should make sure to separate your work and leisure time. This is important to prevent burnout and to always be able to do your best.

This article was translated from English and edited by Ilona Tomić. You can read the original here.


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