Working From Home | Separating Work From Play

By Tom Christiensen

It’s hard to believe it, but March 2021 marks a year since many of us have had to transition to working from home due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While working from home may have been a welcoming change for some, for others, the adjustment hasn’t been an easy one. One of the most common challenges people continue to face is navigating a healthy work-life balance. So for those who feel tethered to their laptop or “on call” 24/7, here are ways to help ensure you’re getting enough playtime in your day.

Define your workspace

One of the most important things to consider while working from home is where you’re doing your work. Whether you live in a spacious home in the suburbs or a cozy studio apartment in the city, keeping your workspace separate from where you spend your free time can be vital to your mental health. Try to avoid working in the same area you sleep. But if that’s not possible, spend some time creating a designated work space in your bedroom that’s comfortable, well-organized, and designed to keep you focused. Whatever you do, don’t work from your bed! Doing so can have a negative impact not only on your sleep quality, but also your productivity, posture, and mood.

Stick to a schedule

As tempting as it is to roll out of bed and start your workday, doing so will quickly blur the lines between work and play. Create a schedule that allows you to start your day off right and prevents you from working long into the night. Doing so reduces stress, promotes a sense of control, and allows you to set aside time specifically for leisure. So when 5 pm rolls around, make sure to shut that laptop off and do something fun! Whether that’s reading a book, hosting a virtual game night with friends, or binge-watching the latest critically-acclaimed show, your mental health will thank you.

Try something new

So what happens when you’ve run out of fun things to do? Perhaps you’ve become bored of building jig-saw puzzles, or you’ve cycled through everything Netflix has to offer. Don’t revert to catching up on work emails just because you feel you’ve exhausted all your leisurely options. Instead, think of new ways to fill your playtime. Always wanted to learn how to paint? Order that paint set and search YouTube for free tutorials! Want to brush up on your Spanish? Find an online class or download an app with free lessons! Remember, the opportunities are endless, and the time you set aside for fun is yours for the making.

Take time off!

While the ongoing pandemic has made travel challenging, don’t let that keep you from taking a vacation. Taking time off, no matter the length, is vital to reducing stress and preventing burnout. Going on a vacation that requires travel is possible, but it may require some extra planning and precautions. Otherwise, taking a “staycation” may be an easier, and more relaxing, route to go. How you spend your time off is up to you – just be sure to stay unplugged! This will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to focus upon returning to work.

Prioritize Self-Care

Whether you’re working or not, put self care first. During the work day, remember to take purposeful breaks. Consider using this time to do something that will clear your mind, like going for a walk or meditating. Don’t forget to eat, either! Use your lunchtime to fuel your body, not for Zoom meetings. When the workday is done, allow yourself to fully unwind and focus on your wellness. Design a routine that includes regular exercise and a consistent bedtime to ensure you start the next day feeling fully refreshed.

Ask for Help When You Need It

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many feeling isolated and alone, and even anxious and depressed. Now more than ever it’s important to use your support system. In the workplace, this may mean communicating with your supervisor when you’re feeling overwhelmed or undersupported, or exploring what resources your employer’s HR department has to offer. Outside of work, consider keeping a list of close friends and family members you can contact when you’re feeling especially down or in need of a pick-me-up. Seeking professional help from a therapist is also a viable option that can provide consistent support tailored to your needs. When asking for help seems difficult, remind yourself of what it can lead to, and give yourself that extra push needed to make your life more manageable.