Work from home. It’s a concept most of us hoped our employer would incorporate so we could get some respite from our ever-so-hectic work life once in a while. But did we ever anticipate that we would be encouraged and required to work from home for a long period of time? We’re living in the “new normal”, as people call it now, where working virtually has become a part of our everyday routine. Now, whether it’s making us more productive at work or not is a separate topic, but I want to ask you, are you able to pause your work to manage the remaining aspects of your life? Considering we’re getting to be home for much longer than usual, are you spending that “extra” time with your family or are you only working more hours?
I observed that I was constantly looking at notifications on my work phone even after I logged off from my computer. While we need to look out for those urgent notifications, I tend to repeatedly check my laptop or phone for any work-related emails. I also ended up working over the weekends at times because I was bored and felt like I had nothing else to do. That’s when I realized that I could do a lot more things by making a few changes in my daily routine. Here are some things I do to be more productive at work and have enough time on my hands for my family, reading, and other hobbies!
In simple terms, here’s what it means – identify the activity you perform right before you start your work and right before you log off. Once you’re aware of these on and off signals, consciously build a habit to start and end your work around these activities and at a specific time. For instance, my work start trigger is right after I make tea or juice at 9am and my work stop trigger is around 6pm when I finish my last meeting for the day. By doing this each day, I now automatically open and close my laptop at these times and don’t end up checking my work phone too many times after 6pm.
From a quick poll on my Instagram, a few of my friends mentioned that tea and coffee are the usual work “on” signals and some of them ended up working until they went to bed! (Shoutout to Namrata, Chaitrali, Manali, Madhura, Kriti, Reeya, Dyanada, Shamika, Aditya, and Prathamesh for their responses!)
To simply explain what compartmentalization means, it’s a mechanism we use to allow multiple and sometimes conflicting ideas to co-exist in the form of separate thoughts. Think of it in terms of the rooms you have in your home – living room, bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, etc. We subconsciously compartmentalize thoughts in our life because the human mind deals with numerous things at a time.
How can we use this to better structure our work life? Clearly define your work hours by creating a separate compartment for work and close the door on it when your work “off” trigger surfaces. Also, remember that extreme compartmentalization is not healthy. Incorporate some integration between different compartments of your life in the sense that when you’re building these sections, make sure they’re permeable. You can integrate them by allowing breaks between your work time for leisure activities.
(Shoutout to Kartiki for helping me understand and rightly articulate this concept!)
In Atomic Habits by James Clear, the author mentions that if we designate specific spots in our house to perform certain tasks regularly, we form a habit of doing those things in those spots, and whenever we are in that corner of the house, we automatically think of those tasks. It’s also a plays into compartmentalization.
By positioning your desk and chair at a defined location in your home, you’re sectioning that part of your life as your home office. As a result, you can effectively use other spaces of your home where you wouldn’t constantly think about work.
I’m not the best at keeping track of time. There have been times when I ate lunch at 3 pm instead of my usual time because I got so involved in my work that I forgot what time it was. Since then, I have been scheduling my lunchtime on my Outlook calendar and set a reminder on it. Every day for a couple of weeks, 15 minutes before 1 pm, an Outlook notification popped up telling me that it was time to eat.
And guess what, after two weeks, I got habituated to eating at that time and I didn’t need that pop-up anymore! Creating a schedule also lets your co-workers know when you’re busy so there won’t be any meetings scheduled around those blocks.
I cannot stress enough on this point. Communicate your thoughts to your family and co-workers because without that, they aren’t going to know how you’re feeling. If you’re stressed at work to the extent that you’re not performing at your full potential, communicate to your teammates and take a couple of days off. Do not feel forced to work constantly even if you’re working from the comfort of your home. We’re truly living in tough times and we all need a break to self-reflect. It’s especially true this year as some of our planned PTOs (holidays) will now not be utilized so the chances of burnout are higher.
All these changes cannot be made in one day, so take it one day at a time. The more time you spend in observing your daily routine, how you feel at the beginning and end of the day, how focused and distracted you are at work and how your health has been; the more you know about yourself and the things you need to change to make you happy and help you work from home better.
Have you been doing certain things to help you work from home more effectively? Please let me know in the comments below so you can help others out! 🙂