Technological advances over the past decade have revolutionized the relationship individuals have with their workplace. In fact, with the growth of remote work, mobile communications, and data sharing, the term “workplace” has almost become a misnomer—the office is no longer a physical place, but a mode. The office door doesn’t stop the flow of business information into our lives as it did in past decades. However, as the office disappears, where does home start and work end?
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 40% of those who frequently work remotely report high stress levels, compared to only 25% of those who work solely in an office. Meanwhile, a Stanford University study found that the productivity of these remote workers has skyrocketed.
So, what’s going on? Working remotely obviously has profound benefits to performance, but at a grave cost. The ability to switch off and close the mental door to our work lives is a must to keeping this productivity level high.
Check out these three strategies for the next time a blizzard of emails hits your phone during a family outing or your quiet dinner becomes a last-minute conference call.
Rationalize and Prioritize
Try to recognize that not everything needs your attention, response or mental energy at that very moment. As we begin to take stock of our day and the tasks we need to complete for tomorrow, there is a natural urge to continue working as the flow of email continues. However, stepping back and letting your list of items grow is essential to our mental well-being.
This applies to managers, as well: when emailing employees at odd hours of the night as an action item pops into your head, try to preface non-priority information with a “When you get a minute...” or “In the morning...” to alleviate any implication that a response is required immediately.
Build the Wall
Although the office is starting to exist as a more metaphysical plane, our brains are not wired to accept this change overnight. We need physical boundaries for remote work, just as we need mental ones. A fantastic way to reinforce the concept of 'home' can be as minor as leaving your computer at the door when your day is done or designating one location as a defined workspace.
The objective is to create a work-free zone in your life—somewhere that is definitely not the office. It takes practice and discipline but establishing this space will train your mind to relax and escape the stress of work.
Worry is the catalyst for 'work' seeping into our personal lives. Though this fret seems almost unavoidable and like it will always be a nagging thought, embracing it is what makes many people as productive as they are. It is, however, important to remember the saying in medio stat virtus: virtue stands in the middle. Essentially, balance is key.
Finding a good book, finding a workout routine or trying out a new recipe occupies the mental energy we usually devote to our jobs – day in and day out. However, accepting these distractions joyfully and without guilt is the only way to truly turn off. Likewise, spending a vacation worrying about your business is really no vacation at all.
Overall, work and home are what you make of them. These two modes of our day can be in harmony, but only when given careful attention to ensure that one doesn’t overcome the other. Working at home is a blessing, but keeping your work out of your home is just as valuable.