Healthy Ways to Transition From Working at Home to Simply ‘Home’

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- Hitting the wine lately? Binge-watching hours of Schitt’s Creek? You’re not alone. Without a commute, many remote employees are logging an additional three hours a day and struggling to healthfully transition from working at home to simply being home. Here are a few strategies to help.

The problem: You’re switching from work to home by drinking or gorging yourself or crawling under the covers, all of which are numbing and don’t address the underlying stress. “That just prolongs anxiety and distress,” says psychologist Michael Kahn, author of Mastering the CEO’s Greatest Challenge. “The longer it takes to recognize that, the more trouble you’re going to be in.”

The science: You used to have a dozen rituals to transition from your work-self to your home-self. Perhaps you closed your computer, chatted with a colleague, waved goodbye to officemates, listened to music on the way home, ran an errand, greeted your pets or housemates, changed out of work clothes, and washed off makeup. “That physical commute was helping the mental commute that goes along with it,” says Christena Nippert-Eng, a sociologist at Indiana University at Bloomington and author of Home and Work: Negotiating Boundaries Through Everyday Life. Here’s what to do:

1. Create a new commute. List your old rituals, in order, and identify the ones that were most helpful. “How can you bring what used to work for you into the current situation? Be creative,” says Nippert-Eng. Perhaps a post-work walk and shower or a co-worker chat followed by changing into exercise clothes. Don’t continue sitting at your computer for hours.

Make sure to build in a micro-commute “home” by working in another part of your residence, even if that means flipping around your kitchen chair so that you see a different perspective.

2. Do something really intense. Nicole Coustier, a career strategist and coach, says that her clients do best when choosing a post-work activity that consumes them. Pick something that:

  • Engages your mind. Think challenging, thoughtful, consuming.
  • Takes 30 to 60-plus minutes
  • Can be done with family or housemates to shift everyone’s energy. Interactivity isn’t essential—parallel pursuits such as reading work fine.

Examples: a puzzle, journaling, a nature walk, crosswords, cooking. Coustier says most people have the misperception that work was intense, and thus after work, they should relax and chill out. But that often doesn’t help the transition or make you feel good.

Experiment, she says. Try doing a puzzle at 5 p.m. Did you enjoy it? Did the stress dissipate? If not, maybe you need a more intense activity, or maybe try the puzzle while calling your bestie or listening to your favorite podcast.

Healthy Ways to Transition From Working at Home to Simply ‘Home’

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