It’s 10 p.m., and you can’t stop worrying about an upcoming presentation.
Or it’s dinner time, and you’re telling your family to wait just 15 more minutes while you finish up “one last thing” for work.
Or, maybe, you’re waking up every hour with a nagging concern about work, leaving you tired and groggy in the morning — and ironically unable to get any work done.
These scenarios are incredibly common, and they’re all telltale signs of being a workaholic. Workaholics have persistent and frequent thoughts of work, even when they’re not working. And this pressure — which usually comes from themselves — can lead to negative consequences for their health and relationships.
Enter COVID-19 and social distancing — during which many employers are encouraging or requiring their employees to work from home. Pre-COVID-19, workaholics could at least attempt to separate work from home by physically leaving the office. Now, a wrench has been thrown into this balance, making many workdays never-ending.
Here are 5 ways frantic workaholics can cope with working from home and get their work/life balance back on track.
1. Recognize the impacts of working too hard.
Overwhelmingly, workaholism has been correlated with negative outcomes related to relationships and health. Before you begin attempting to combat your tendencies of being a workaholic, it’s important to understand why this is so critical.
Negative impacts of workaholism include:
- Marital problems
- Familial conflicts
- Decreased life satisfaction
- Physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes
- Mental health problems, such as sleep problems, cynicism, and depression
Plus, obsession with your work may actually make you less satisfied with your job. This can lead to counterproductive work behaviors, such as not producing your best work, which is counterproductive when it comes to building your career.
2. Shut. It. Down.
The first step to minimizing the negative impacts of workaholism is to stop working so much. Of course, that’s much easier said than done. While it would be unrealistic to suddenly cut your workweek from 65 hours to 45 hours, you can start gradually limiting the number of hours you work.
While working from home prevents you from physically leaving your office (more on physical spaces in a minute, though), you can commit to shutting your work-related electronics down. Start by logging off at a certain time each day or avoiding work entirely on the weekend. Little by little, only allow yourself to work a reasonable and healthy amount of hours.
You should also make sure you take a lunch break each day. It’s easy to fall into the trap of eating beside your computer, but that can lead to mental fatigue.
Also, if you get work notifications on your phone, silence them during your off-hours. Only on rare occasions is it necessary to respond to an email at 1 in the morning.
Of course, it’s important to make sure you fulfill your obligations to your employer (and if you’re finding that they seem impossible to fulfill, it might become necessary to talk to them). In order to accommodate these more reasonable times, you may need to delegate tasks and prioritize your to-do list. And remember, perfection is unrealistic, so don’t spend forever trying to make everything just right.
3. Make an actual “workspace.”
Workaholics benefit greatly from leaving the office — but that’s not an option when you’re working from home. In fact, it actually becomes easier to let your work and personal life blend together because they physically coexist.
However, try to do your best to confine your workspace to a designated area. That way, you can “leave” the office each day. If you don’t have a full-blown office, find a space with minimum traffic flow, such as a corner or a small desk in the guest room.
The key is to be able to leave this space each day. Plus, it’s helpful to not constantly feel the gravitational pull of your workspace if you have to walk past it frequently.
A designated workspace also keeps you from getting distracted, allowing you to get more work done during your work hours. Whether it’s your children, your significant other, or your television, it’s best to keep potential distractions out of view as much as possible as you’re working, if you can.
4. Make plans outside of work.
It’s easy to convince yourself to keep working if nothing’s on the calendar for afterward. It’s also likely you’ll continue to fixate on work-related thoughts if you’re not keeping yourself otherwise occupied, especially as you ease into a healthier work/life balance.
In order to have something to look forward to after your workday and stay busy, try to plan your evenings and weekends in advance. This way, you can enjoy the things that life has to offer outside of work.
One way to distance yourself from work is to connect with others. With COVID-19 and social distancing, this can be more challenging. However, there are still plenty of ways to connect, such as virtual book clubs, happy hours, or exercise classes. If you live with others, schedule times for themed dinners or game nights — anything to change up the routine and keep things fun.
Don’t forget to make plans for yourself, too. Set aside time for a new hobby, reading a book, or getting lost in a television show. And if you need to, schedule these in an actual calendar to keep yourself accountable.
5. Be realistic — and be kind to yourself.
Reducing the time you spend working outside of designated hours or thinking about work won’t happen on its own. You’ll need to change the way you approach work, if only very slightly at first.
Practice letting go of some control by accepting help from others, prioritizing tasks, and even forgoing the unimportant ones completely. In addition, try not to say “yes” to work requests if it means you’ll be working late into the evening each night or unable to take a break of any kind.
And remember, while you certainly play a role in how successful you are in your career, you’re also responsible for your own well-being. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for taking time to exercise, sleep in an extra hour here and there, or spend time with your family.
Work-life balance is exactly that — a balance. If you prioritize one too much, the other is going to take a hit. Both your work life and your non-work life deserve your attention, and it’s up to you to achieve the best of both worlds.