Before Covid-19, 86% of the 151 million American workers surveyed for the 2018 American Community Survey said they drove to work each day. But the pandemic put this to a screeching halt. People are struggling with overworking and separating themselves emotionally from work. We’re working at home and we’re sleeping at work, and it’s really confusing for our brains. That’s where a commute comes in.
Before the pandemic, the average commute was 38 minutes each way. Not only have employees lost that buffer, but they have also taken on more work: about 48 extra minutes per day. They are also dealing with more meetings and more communication that spills into off hours, according to findings published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in July.
“Before quarantine, we’d have time to go to and from our offices,” Jamie Goldstein, the therapy experience lead at Coa, told Healthline. “We built in time for lunch hours and even travel time to go from one meeting or appointment to the next. These moments of physical transition allowed us to move between our roles as parents, project managers, partners, and more.”
Now the lines between work and home life are blurred and it’s difficult to separate the two.
The answer? Take a new commute every day.
What exactly is a new commute?
Lack of transition time is a fast track to burning out.
A new commute is a ritual that you do before the start and end of your workday. One example is how Dr. Damien Lyons, a lecturer in Sydney, spends his mornings. He buttons up a work shirt, jumps in the car, switches on the radio and drives for 10-minutes on a set route.
For Marianna Hewitt, the co-founder of Summer Fridays, it’s taking a short walk in the morning and evening to signify what would have been her commute. And, for Ian Silvera, account director of Newgate Communications, it’s sitting on a park bench to people-watch.
It’s just a matter of tricking your brain into starting a new routine. It's about re-building those lines between work and normal life so the two don't cross over. This leads to less stress, less anxiety, and a better work-life balance. You need to find the ritual that’s right for you. There are many ways to reap the benefits of a fake commute. Like so much else, the important thing is sticking to the method you choose. Here are tips on how to find the new commute that works for you:
1. Shut down your workspace
Symbolizing the end of the workday is crucial. Avoid the space that you use for work during the day, and try to make sure you have dedicated office space. Put away as much of work as possible at the end of the work time to signify that you are moving away from work and into your personal time. If you don't have access to a separate workspace, create a separate account on your computer that is completely dedicated to work. When it's time for the day to end, log out of that account and only use it for work-related purposes.
2. Get dressed and walk out the door
Getting dressed and ready for work like you did before the pandemic is a good way to start the day.
Why put on work-appropriate clothes? That’s easy: It delineates between work and home mode."When you put on work clothes as you would before working form home, it helps you get into the mindset that it's time for work and gets your head in that space."
Furthermore, multiple studies show that what you wear matters. For example, take a look at a 2015 study by the journal Social Psychological and Personal Science. It was found that wearing formal attire can make you feel more productive, which will then spark creativity.
At the same time, you can still wear cozy and comfortable clothing. If staying comfy is helping you cope, then go for it. However, you should still change out of your pajamas and put something else on in the morning.
3. Follow the same commute time
Think about how long you used to put toward commuting or moving from one meeting to another, and block that time on your calendar to take a walk, grab tea from the kitchen, or take a restful break.
If you used to walk from the office to your favorite lunch spot, try incorporating a 10-minute walk before and after lunch. This allows your body the space it needs to come back down to neutral after being in action mode at work.
Let’s say that you used to leave your home at 7:30 am for a 20-minute commute. You could go for a morning walk with your dog at the same time and duration. If you left the office at 4:30, then that’s when you could go for your afternoon walk before calling it a day.
Additionally, if you left work to go to your favorite deli or coffee shop for lunch at 11:30, then this is when you should continue to take your lunch break. And, just like the length of your morning and afternoon commute, if it took you 10-minutes to arrive at your favorite lunch spot, then you should also go for a 10-minute walk before eating.
4. Go to “the office.”
If you used to be in your workplace at 8:45 am, then stick to that schedule while working at home. Of course, this may not be possible for everyone, but, if you can do so, then maintain this daily routine.
So, head over to your dedicated workspace when you would normally be in your office, and stay there until you would leave on a typical workday. And, even if you don’t have a separate home office and you’re working from a desk in a spare room, converted closet, or a kitchen table, keep your workspace separate by:
- Keeping it clutter-free.
- Turning off distractions like phone notifications.
- Eating somewhere else as opposed to your desk.
- Working in a quiet space of your home
- Share your calendar with others so that they know when you’re available for work and when you’re offline
It’s best to engage in your commute when you’re easing into and out of the workday. Some companies are embracing the idea of fake commutes: Microsoft, for example, recently announced that it was launching a “virtual commute” feature that allows employees using its Teams software to schedule commute time at the beginning and end of the day. In a news release, the company said it hopes to help boost workers’ well-being by encouraging them to take breaks to reflect and recharge."We hope this post has helped you think more about your work from home days and how you can make them feel more like being in the office. If you follow these tips, you'll find it much easier to separate work from home. Want more work from home tips and tricks? Check out this blog post.
Topics: Professional Development