January 27, 2021

Tactics to Win WFH Boundaries Battles

Tactics to Win WFH Boundaries Battles Blog Post Picture

I used to “go” to work. Now work is a thing I “do” in the same place I live, with limited lockdown ability to leave. “Going to work” is a walk in my slippers down the landing, mug in hand. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a small office I can shut the door on. Yet still I have to consciously fight to defend the blurred boundaries between where work time stops and me time starts. Its’ so easy to do another email, another 20 minutes, to “make up for” time answering the door to the supermarket delivery.  

In a recent Harvard Business Review report, “Where did the commute time go” a panel research piece found that whilst an average 41 minutes a day were reclaimed from commuting, the work day increased by 56 minutes. Do the maths over the 10 months many of us have been working from home. 15 minutes per day / well over an hour a week is a conservative estimate based on a non-scientific poll of my friends too. More likely over an hour a day. No wonder motivation and mood are low. We’re tired and taxed, juggling a lot, within the unvaried monotony of the same 4 walls. 

So many people I’ve spoken to of late are using the corkscrew as their tool of choice for boundary drawing. The glass of wine that signifies the switch of gears.  That’s fine, nothing wrong with an occasional drink but it’s not the only option, so if you are drinking every night, maybe you should make a conscious effort to shift from autopilot and try and mix it up across the week?

On cold dark January nights it’s not easy to motivate yourself so you need to combine triggers with rewards. Heaps of research indicates that relying on self discipline alone probably won’t help unless you anchor your action.

Get creative but the secret to winning is in any combination of:

Physical movement 

Changed environment

Creating a small process or habit

Here’s a few thought-starters: 

  • Set an alarm at lunchtime as the time to close the laptop lid: (Preferably something annoying like the timer on your oven, so you actually have to get up to turn it off)
  • Have a snack rather than a glass of wine as the line between work & dinner (I have a little dish of nuts – healthy, crunchy, yummy!). It’s as much about the process of filling the dish as it is the nuts that says closure / gear change time. Fizz some water in the Sodastream. Doesn’t matter what. It’s about something that requires a little bit of attention to achieve. 
  • Change your jumper, sounds silly.. really works.. because it creates an action that disrupts – you have to change room, make a choice, wrestle your way out of one, into another. It’s a mental signal.
  • Put a hat and coat on and do a lap of the block  – good for your back, your step count, clears your head even in 15 minutes. It’s the change of environment that matters. (Bonus there’s less people around in the dark too).  One of my friends swears by “Walking at home with Leslieon YouTube if you really can’t face going out or its pouring!
  • Set yourself a step challenge so you see cumulative progress… If you do even a few miles everyday it wouldn’t take you long to clock up the 268 miles of this virtual Pennine Way walk, and they’ll send you postcards along the way to mark your progress. 

What else is working for you? Share your ideas.

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