The Mental Health Commute

Avatar photo Cedric Voigt - 14th Jul, 2020

Many industries that prided themselves on their frenetic workaholic reputations, like stockbroking, financial trading etc have now discovered that they can work perfectly well from home with no loss to either their results or their ego.  It has been a real surprise to many CEOs who had previously dismissed remote working out of hand and has bought many improvements to work life balance.

Once the schools open on a more consistent basis working from home will be even more satisfying and productive and analysts are predicting a long-term shift to home working.

One of the stranger things some of our colleagues have mentioned missing, however, is their commute.  Not the sitting in stationary traffic on the ring-road part, or more commonly being rammed against someone’s armpit for forty-five minutes on a train, but the dividing line between work and home that is provided by the commute.  Annoying as it was, the commute did provide a buffer zone between home and work.

Being catapulted out of a Zoom conference call and straight into children’s teatime or a sulky teenage row can be disorientating.  It also means your partner may find themselves pinned to the wall for ten minutes while you describe every laborious detail of your planning meeting and who said what to whom.

For those who are in flat shares and confined to one room, the temptation is to keep working, or stop and start, which blurs the boundaries horribly and gives the sense that work is never-ending.

As a result, workplace coaches, who are doing brisk business helping employees navigate the new normal, are advising a “mental health commute”.   They recommend the following:

  • Arrive at your desk ten minutes before beginning work, with a coffee, and read whatever newspaper you would normally read on your commute. Move your mind from home to work.
  • Wear “outside shoes”. Yes, it may be comfortable to slop around in socks but you need to help your subconscious shift from casual to professional.
  • Get outside during your lunch break (and obviously, make sure you have one). You’d be amazed how your daily trot to Pret helped refresh your brain; no need to miss out on it now.
  • When you finish work, turn off your laptop (properly off, don’t just push the cover down) and spend a little time reading the newspaper. If you can, get out again to walk around the block.  Even ten minutes will give you that decompression time to enter wholeheartedly back into family life or leisure and reset those boundaries.

Of course, if you want to entirely recreate the commuting experience, you can wedge yourself into a corner for an hour and get someone to bash you with a rucksack, but we don’t recommend it.

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