Finding an equal balance between work and life can be a struggle, but it can be even more difficult to do so while working and studying from home. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is suddenly shifting to remote means. We only leave our homes for the bare necessities. Unexpectedly, our professional, academic and personal lives are now all housed under the same roof. As a result, it can be difficult to distinguish where one starts and the other ends, hence significantly affecting your mental well-being.
I too am in the same boat. I went from following a well-set schedule to having little to no structure in my day. Back when I was working in the office, I had people regularly reminding me to take breaks and leave work on time so as to make time for myself. At home however, I find myself starting work right when I wake up, neglecting to take my full hour of lunch, and working past the time I would usually leave work.
But just because our circumstances have changed doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice our mental health to adapt. These past few weeks of adjustment have shown me the importance of separating work from leisure. Here are some tips that I’ve been using to ensure that I leave a clear divide between my professional and personal life.
1. Schedule your Work and Study Hours
Without the routine of entering and leaving the office or school at specific times, it’s easy to get caught up in your work and lose track of time. Set alarms on your phone with consistent work or study hours to remind you when it’s time to put your assignments down and “leave” work or school.
By carving out specific times for work, it will prevent your work from consuming your entire day, hence keeping you from being spread too thin or growing burnt out. In turn, it will allow you to be more efficient and productive with your tasks.
2. Leave Work at Work
With tasks and assignments so easily accessible, they can easily trickle into and consume your leisure time. Resist the urge to check your work or school email outside of these set hours to allow yourself to be present during your down time. Something that I find helpful is turning off my notifications for my emails and work communication channels to remove the temptation of checking in.
3. Create a Designated Work Space
Living with my family while everyone is working or studying from home makes it difficult to find a quiet space to work apart from my bedroom. However, because the mind naturally associates the bedroom with sleep, working there results in being less productive and more distracted. To combat this, I created a work corner for myself, albeit a small one, away from my bedroom with lots of natural lighting to keep me alert and energized. In doing so, I have found that I am much more focused, energized and motivated throughout my work day. Take some time to create a space designated to work or studying, and personalize it with decorations to make it your own!
4. Have a Routine
Even though you don’t have to leave the house for school or work, that doesn’t mean you should kick your daily routine to the curb. Brush your teeth, change out of your pajamas, and make some breakfast. The added structure will not only allow you to grow more productive, but it will also support your mental well-being and overall mood!
5. Take Breaks
Like I mentioned before, being out of the office means that I no longer have my co-workers to remind me to take a break, much less my lunch break. Without any accountability, taking breaks can easily slip your mind, and in turn can result in increased stress and exhaustion. Studies have shown that taking breaks increases your productivity. Set reminders on your phone, or have those you live with remind you to step back from your work for at least 10 minutes every few hours and to take your lunch break.
Although your work or studies are important, so is your health. Maintaining a strong work-life balance is crucial for preventing burnout, managing stress, and supporting your mental health. Do your mind a favour and leave work at work to make space for your well-being. You won’t regret it!
Beyond the Blog
For more opportunities like Eleanor's, visit the SFU Co-op page!
SFU students (Grad & UGrad) can access free, immediate support 24/7 (chat or phone) with My SSP (Student Support Program).
Visit SFU Health and Counseling Services to learn more