Now that there are zero degrees of separation between our homes and our jobs, we face 24/7 workdays with no way to escape phone calls, emails and, of course, Zoom meetings from hell.
It wasn't always the case.
Long ago, we had our beloved commute, twice-a-day interludes of calm and reflection as we traveled between the home and the office. This was quality "me time," an opportunity to contemplate the vagaries of the human condition while waiting for the moron in front of us to realize a light had changed. And, if we were lucky enough to get totally caught in an early morning traffic snarl, we could explore the outer limits of mental illness as our supervisors raged at us for being a few stupid minutes late.
At this point, we don't know when we'll be able to go back to the pleasures of commuting, but there are ways we can keep some of its benefits. I refer you to Nina Bartmann, a senior researcher at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University and the author of "Separating Work-Life From Home-Life During COVID-19," a recent post on the website of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.
Bartmann understands that the lack of physical — and mental — distance between work and home can make "days appear longer, stressful, and chaotic." That's why she has developed "an easy, 5-step solution based on these commuting benefits to help you successfully establish work-life boundaries when the home is the new office."
Taking a look at her plan represents a good step forward.
No. 1: "Put your work materials aside."
To protect you from letting work infect your home life, Bartmann recommends that, "at the end of the workday, take concrete steps to physically distance yourself from your work, even if that means just hiding it." She closes her laptop and then puts it in her backpack.
My recommendation is you put your laptop in your backpack and then bury it in your backyard. You'll want six-foot hole, at least, and fill it in promptly, preferably with cement. The next morning, you can arrive at the scene with your jackhammer, refreshed and ready to get to work. (If you don't have a backyard, bury your work in someone else's backyard. For true separation, don't make note of the address. You'll remember it the next morning, or not.)
No. 2: "Change your clothes."
The idea of changing from business to casual clothes would make perfect sense in the old days, when we wore suits and heels to the office. In recent years, work clothes have gone way casual, so you probably don't have an alternate wardrobe to change into. That's why I recommend that, at the end of the workday, you shuck your clothes and go naked. This will be a sartorial work-life dividing line that you will feel immediately, and so will your family, your neighbors and the FedEx guy.
No. 3: "Spend time outside."
"Strive to just get out the door at least once a day," Bartmann writes, "and if you make it to 30 minutes, even better." My advice is to combine steps No. 2 and No. 3. Once you are naked, step out of your house, and lock the door behind you. Since you're naked and have no place to put a key, you'll surely spend considerable time outdoors. Trust me, you'll be more than ready to get back to work when you are released from custody.
No. 4: "The benefit of exercise."
Bartmann jogs and bikes. On rainy days, she walks her neighborhood while calling her grandmother. I prefer a more targeted exercise program. My recommended workout aims to increase phalanges strength by planking on your couch and rigorously pushing the buttons on your remote control. When you find an episode of "The Goop Lab," go back to work. It will be an improvement, guaranteed.
No. 5: "Coming home."
Completing the five-step solution should "successfully restore work-life boundaries" and "put you in charge of your mental wellbeing again."
It would be an excellent time to call your grandmother. Or my grandmother. Or, better yet, your boss.
Let them know you have now separated from work, so they shouldn't bug you with calls or emails or invitations to Zoom meetings, because you have a personal life, and if they're so pathetic and needy they can't go five minutes without work nonsense, you feel nothing for them except pity.
Trust me, after a few calls like this, creating a work-life separation will not be a problem.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: DarkWorkX at Pixabay