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Setting New Boundaries: Adjusting to a New Way of Living and Working

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When this all started, many of us had to quickly adapt to working from home. Now, what we may have viewed as temporary fixes are feeling more permanent.

We’re adjusting to a new concept of “home.” Home is now the office. Home is now the school. Home is now the gym. But home is still home. Checking in with yourself and setting some new boundaries can help you adjust to life, as we now know it.

Do a “temperature check”
With three months under your belt of working from home, do a “temperature check” on how it is affecting you: Are you never “turning off”? Are you feeling compelled to be online at all hours? Do you feel yourself answering emails all day and night? In the long run, this can lead to burnout, which can be accompanied by stress, anxiety and depression. Set (or reiterate) your boundaries to your employer and anyone you share your space with. Here are some tips:

  • Have a conversation with your employer about how extended hours are affecting you, and what can be done to manage this. (e.g., could you be available by email after 5 p.m., but agree to no meetings after that time?) Everyone’s situation is different, so try to be specific to your particular needs.
  • Set up a system to let colleagues know when you’re “at work” and when you’re away – maybe by text, email or group messaging system.
  • Sit down with roommates or family members to establish clear expectations about each person’s need for space and time during the day to avoid disrupting each other’s concentration and workflow.
  • If you haven’t yet, designate a workspace. Wearing headphones is also a good way to signal to others that you are in work mode.
  • Try to stop work around the same time every day. For many of us, our commute (although annoying) or a quick after-work beverage with colleagues helped us decompress from work. Without that available, do something that helps you unwind, like a short walk or listening to a podcast.

Check in with your body
Those of us who’ve never worked from home likely don’t have the right set up to do this effectively. Things like a comfortable chair, a good-sized monitor and a properly heightened desk are vital to staying well physically. If your body is feeling it, invest in some new office equipment if you’re able to. And, remember to take frequent breaks to get you up on your feet and moving.

Oh… and don’t fill up commute time with work
Without a daily commute, we may be tempted to use that time for work. To give yourself balance, consider using that time to do something you never had time to do before, like reading, exercising or meditating.

With all the barriers gone, it’s easy to blend work and home life – but that usually means sacrificing home time for work time. Be vigilant about that erosion. In the long run, you’ll work better and more effectively if you are getting the breaks you need. So make sure those temporary compromises that made so much sense three months ago are giving way to sustainable solutions you can comfortably live with in the longer term.

We’re adjusting to a new concept of “home.” Home is now the office. Home is now the school. Home is now the gym. But home is still home.

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