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Build Resilience by Creating Boundaries while WFH

Both in my coaching practice and through my wellbeing webinars, I’ve been noticing that people are beginning to get exhausted. We’ve come through the initial adrenaline reaction to Covid19, the novelty of wfh has long worn off.  It already feels like forever since schools closed down. The sunshine isn’t as dependable as it was a few weeks ago, the sky is mostly dull now. We’re all just tired. This is the stage in which our resilience really gets tested. Even as restrictions are lifted, we’re finding that things just aren’t the same – joining a long queue to get in anywhere kind of sucks the joy out of the experience. So how can we find the energy to keep going and get some joy back into life?

Having the capacity to work from home (wfh) gives wonderful flexibility and is a preferred option for the majority. However, we didn’t all get warning so we weren’t necessarily set up to work from home. One of the key issues I see in working from home is a lack of boundaries. We’re working in spaces we used to relax in. There is no commute to divide up the workday from the home day. If you have children the constant interruptions and distractions probably mean that you work morning, afternoon and evening just to make up your hours. Everybody who still has a job seems to be putting in longer hours. People are Zoomed out, exhausted from having a camera trained on them all day, constantly switched on. These are issues we need to address if we’re going to continue to wfh (even some of the time) and still manage to stay well. Here are some ideas worth considering if you’d like to stay resilient through our ever-changing times:

1.     Try to create a defined workspace in your home, which is just for work. When you sit in that space your brain knows this is work time. See if you can organize that space to be clear and uncluttered. Invest in some shelving or a set of drawers if you need to; try to create a space where you will be comfortable to work.

2.     Similarly, have clearly defined spaces in your home where you never work, so your brain associates those rooms or spaces with relaxation time, and knows its ok to switch off. This is why it’s so important to never work in your bed or even from the couch. It just confuses the brain so that it gets really unclear when to switch on and off into work mode or relax mode. Create clear space-boundaries.

3.     See if you can restructure your day to create clear time-boundaries. Plan when you will take your lunch break, extend it to include a walk or some fresh air if possible. Have a clear finish time at the end of the day. Set a time beyond which you never work. Schedule in time during the week for exercise, social connections (even if it’s a remote coffee catch-up), things that you used to make time for before all this began. And if yours is a Monday-Friday job, then don’t work on weekends, keep them as sacred. It’s very important to have clear days off when your mind understands that its not meant to work that day, where you can tell yourself ‘Its okay, I’ll deal with that next workday’ rather than you watching TV whilst beating yourself up because you ‘should’ be working.

4.     Perhaps the most important area to create boundaries for is in relation to your online time, social media use, and digital connection. This is the area guiltiest of leaking across time and space boundaries. Review your notifications – see which ones you can turn off altogether, or at least put to silent. Separate out personal and work emails, and don’t access work emails outside of work hours. Set up an auto responder so that you don’t feel under pressure to answer everything immediately. Set time limitations on your devices for each social media app so that you don’t lose track of yourself and waste hours scrolling. Be aware of your daily average use, and perhaps aim to reduce that by 10% next week. Leave phones downstairs at bedtime, or get into the habit of switching off devices an hour before bed to wind-down.

5.     What other boundaries do you need to put in place in order to be able to be productive when you’re working and switch off more easily when you’re not? Perhaps there are people boundaries you need – only contacting work people during normal work hours, for instance? Or perhaps to save your relationship at home, you need to create boundaries around when you discuss work with each other – perhaps no work discussions are allowed past a certain time each evening. Identify the problem areas and see if you can create more explicit boundaries to support yourself to be able to work from home in a healthier way. Stay well!