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Work from home? How to disconnect for a better work-life balance

Researchers talk pros and cons of remote work
New study looks at pros and cons of remote work 03:53

For work-from-home employees, it can be challenging to disengage after your shift. There's no commute to mark the beginning and end of the workday, no change of scenery to signal a transition from "work" to "home" mode.

But there are ways for remote employees to protect their work-life balance, says Angela D. Coleman, holistic health specialist and author of "The Art of Chilling Out for Women."

"If we don't... create boundaries and redefine how we want to exist in the world, it just never ends," she says, explaining how a lopsided work-life balance can lead to burnout. "We can be more productive... by incorporating some of these habits into our daily lives."

If you're looking to improve your ability to disconnect after a long day of working from home, here are Coleman's tips:

Establish boundaries

"If you're working from home, does that mean you're on call 24/7? If you respond as if you're on call 24/7 to everyone all the time, they're going to keep doing that because you don't have boundaries," Coleman explains. 

She adds that it's important not only to establish boundaries, but to communicate and enforce them.

This can be done by setting specific hours in which you respond to messages. 

It's important to respect your own boundaries, too. For example, be honest with yourself about what you can finish up the next morning in order to log off on schedule.

Coleman also says people should recognize that this shift may take time, and that's OK.

"We end up having to train (the people around us) to what our boundaries are, especially if they're new and different," she says. "Give them some time and have patience with them as they get used to the boundaries that you've put into motion because your situation or your circumstances have changed."

Create separate spaces

As someone who has worked from home even before the pandemic, Coleman says she's learned the importance of establishing physical space that divides work from home life.

"These are chill-out areas where you can literally just go and be able to to help you ground yourself," she say, explaining that burnout can make you feel "all over the place... like you're not tethered to anything," which is why grounding exercises can help to counteract this.

One way she encourages people to break away from their work space is by taking breaks in nature when possible — even if it's just stepping out to a small balcony or opening up a window.

Time spent outdoors can have a profound effect on mental health, making it a great way to transition from work to relaxation mode.

Look out for burnout

So you've been defining your boundaries and creating spaces to get away from work — now it's time to actually tap into relaxation and keep an eye out for burnout. 

While some countries have considered legal steps to help prevent burnout in the workforce, such as policies on after-hours communications, no such legislation exists in the U.S. — meaning it's left to the employer and employee to navigate. 

Coleman suggests staying aware if past habits (such as overstepping or ignoring boundaries) start creeping back up during busy schedules and to react and adjust before burnout sets in. 

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