Updated: Oct 19, 2021
It's October 2021, and needless to say, we have all been through a lot in the last 18 months:
The COVID-19 pandemic with its associated rising death count, health disabilities, and mitigating isolation efforts
The 2020 United States (U.S.) national election friction
Cyber-attacks on companies and governments
Democracy under attack at the U.S. Capital
The resurgence of racial tensions in the U.S. following the killing of George Floyd.
Climate disruptions in the U.S., Haiti, Australia, Central America, and Southeast Asia
International economic shifts as the United Kingdom officially withdrew from the European Union
The "Me Too" movement gaining national prominence as sexual assaults are uncovered
Of all those things, working from home certainly didn't seem to be among the worst of it. That is until I asked my clients.
During the last few months of 2020 and into 2021, I began to record specific responses from my coaching clients on what they missed most from pre-COVID work environments. The clients ranged from corporate executives to recent college grads entering the workforce. To my surprise, a common thread was the separation between home and work. For years, employees have dreamed of working from home to reduce commute time, manage personal errands, cook meals regularly, dress comfortably, and spend more time with family. Many fantasized that working from home would allow them to save time, avoid abusive or distracting co-workers, work at their own pace, and create boundaries. … Or so we thought.
Despite its benefits, the thrill of working from home has given way to a blurring of home and work lives in an unhealthy way. When employers started shutting down offices, managers questioned how effective employees would be working from home. Employees have gone overboard and found themselves working far more at home than when going to an office to prove their effectiveness. Many started going from their beds to their makeshift desks in their homes. Many took more meetings than they would have before because they could easily transition from one video conference to another ad infinitum, without a break, across multiple time zones. Exhausted at the end of the workday, they move from their desks back to bed without even thinking of exercise or fresh air. And for those with children and elder care, it is worse. It appears that this so-called productivity at home has come at the cost of mental health and future success because none is sustainable. The bubble will burst if we don't manage and segregate our time at home.
Recently Forbes published an article that shares the result of a recent survey of 1,000 Americans, published by TELUS International. That research indicated that 75% of U.S. workers have struggled at work due to anxieties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent world events. So the results of my informal survey of clients should not be a surprise, because they reported similar experiences: depression, disillusionment, loneliness, exhaustion, etc. So while I don't know your story or history, rest assured, I am confident that you can relate to what many of my clients faced.
So, what can you do? Many of my clients can't return to the office just yet, nor can they let their effectiveness drop. Together, we found a compromise that we call re-commuting. While they are not physically traveling between home and a different work location, they can use the time of the pre-COVID commute to do something for themselves. This time provides a perfect opportunity to concentrate on physical and mental health. Imagine taking 30 minutes after waking up and getting dressed to do something that motivates you to begin working before picking up your phone or opening a computer. These 30 minutes are the minutes you previously took to traverse to a work location. Now use this time to turn the noise volume in your life down…the noise volume infiltrating our lives. Unplug the devices and tune into your psyche. Here is a list of various activities which can do just that:
e) Listening to a motivational podcast
While it is important to do something that benefits you, what you do depends on what is needed in your life. What could you do for 30 minutes to help you prepare for work while also physically and mentally improving yourself as you unplug? I hope you are not reading this blog thinking it is for someone else. Because you are reading it, I encourage you to get off the sideline and consider the question above. It doesn't matter if you are working or retired. What could you do for 30 minutes to help you prepare for your day? How important could it be to have 30 minutes to yourself for yourself? How relieving would it be to escape the bombardment of news, world events, crime, politics, and work email? One overarching thing is true for everyone. That breath you just took can never be retaken. That alone should put this discussion in perspective!
So, if you can "re-commute" to prepare for work, you can spend 30 minutes, likewise, at the end of the workday. Just as it is essential to prepare for the workday, preparing for your family or after-work life is just as important. Doing so will help separate home and work and give definitions and limits to the workday. You may find this challenging, but consider how we often cannot stop our minds from working, even when we finish work. Instead, we must train our minds to "let it go" and use that time to live. The same activities listed earlier can enhance your inner essence as the workday ends.
Some of you already have things you do before and after work, but are those things regimented for others or yourself? We all have responsibilities. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. So consider how you might prioritize your day to embrace self-well-being. And so why not re-image your commute? Is it time to re-commute?
Initial results from my clients have been encouraging because this is causing them to separate home and work as they manage their home work-life with intentionality. So what are you going to do? Try it. Let me know how it works for you. You can send me comments at the CONTACT tab on www.leadperpetully.com or email me at Info@AllenManagementInc.com. I would love to hear from you and offer other techniques if you are interested. So now go forth and #LEADPerpetually.
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