You’re at your wit’s end when your final Zoom call of the day ends: customers are not happy with your pricing change this week…
Before you get a chance to pull out your left AirPod, your partner shouts from the other room, “Ready to cook dinner? It’s chili night!”
You feel like a life-size version of Panic Pete as you close your laptop and try to wipe away the Stern-But-Caring-Customer-Experience-Director and summon your inner Fun-Chili-Fanatic-Spouse.
When you’re working from home, you’ve got no commute—which means no time or physical barriers between work and your family on a daily basis. You can be in a quarterly business review in London one minute and cheers-ing margaritas with your spouse in your kitchen the next, but that doesn’t mean your brain can or should keep up with that drastic change.
Nate Klemp, PhD, and Kaley Klemp, the authors of the upcoming book 80/80 Marriage, shared their perspective on why transitioning from work to home life is so hard with remote work. Read on for transition tips you can try to move out of work time and give extra care to your relationships at work and home.
Why is it hard to get out of the work mindset when you’re working from home?
Nate and Kaley started 80/80 Marriage because they’ve always believed in the importance of intentionality in relationships. Once Covid-19 hit, their beliefs were only further confirmed. They said that in the current situation, having shutdown transition rituals at the end of the workday is one of the best things for remote workers who want to prioritize self-care and work-life balance.
“At the beginning of a pandemic, there was a lot more of this blurring of lines as the whole world began to work from home,” Nate said. You’re sitting in the home office (or dining room table, or living room, or kitchen table) all day with your partner or children, but since you’re working separately, you have very little actual connection. Kaley called this feeling “being close but not connected,” and this state plays a large part in causing difficulty in relationships since working from home.
Why make work from home transition rituals?
At work you’ve got goals to accomplish. Quotas to hit. Customers to serve. There’s a good chance you’re moving a mile a minute. But relationships require a mindset that’s quite the opposite, Nate and Kaley argued. They referenced a line by Esther Perel: “Intimacy is the ultimate inefficiency.”
Nate explained, “Relationships squander time and resources, and it could seem like a complete waste of time from the sort of productivity-driven mind to just sit around and talk for hours.” But those slowed-down, unoptimized moments without a strict routine are often the times that define and strengthen our personal relationships.
That’s why Nate and Kaley shared their ideas and best practices for building transition rituals at the end of the workday.
1. Choose a few moments to pause during the day
You know…those times when you start working and you’re in the zone and when you look up—woah. You’ve been sucked into a vortex. Climbing back out into the real world after hours of focus can be tough and leave you in a fog.
Nate said that while aiming for efficiency at work is necessary, many people could benefit from taking quick breaks every few hours. Even if it’s a 5-minute walk around the block or just looking up from your seat for a minute, a break can be a beneficial new routine for many reasons:
You get time for big-picture thinking, innovation, and reflection.
It’s good practice for transitioning out of the work mindset at the end of the day.
You can bring some of the intentionality that you have in your personal relationships into your work.
2. Put limits on your cell phone
Our smartphones are a blessing and a curse, but when it comes to leaving work at work, they make it mighty hard. Your work can follow you to the dinner table, the couch, and your bed if you let it.
Kaley and Nate said our phones often contribute to a state that writer and consultant Linda Stone calls continuous partial attention. You’re on video calls, scrolling Instagram, and reading news at the same time. But you’re doing none of it fully. It’s a massive cognitive load to carry.
“It’s this phenomenon where we’re just sort of never fully on never fully off. What that results in is we’re never able to meet our work with full intensity, that experience of flow where you’re fully on. But we’re also never able to fully rest," Nate said.
Using the screen time limit on your smart phone can be an important step for being more intentional—or you can try deleting work email or chat tools from your phone altogether. Nate and Kaley said they have a no phone in the bedroom rule, so they’re never tempted to check on work or get caught up chatting with their team after the work day is done.
3. Make your calendar around your values
Ever had those weeks when your time gets booked up by others, and you realize all you wanted was to watch an episode of The Office on Thursday night? It happens to everyone from time to time—it feels like your calendar isn’t yours at all.
“From your values, know your priorities and then from your priorities, set boundaries. Make a list. Build it into your personal time if it’s important to you,” Kaley said.
Once you know your values, the important thing is to ask yourself if you’re acting on them. “One of the things that regularly happens for folks is that if you aren’t clear, things happen by default,” she added. If you know health is one of your values, then you can build a morning workout into your day and you won’t miss it. If friends are high on your list, make time for building and nurturing those friendships in your calendar.
4. Try meditation or breathing exercises
There are so many options for meditation, and that’s one of the reasons Nate and Kaley recommend it for those trying to transition out of work stuff and the stress of the day. “We spend about half of our day in the state that psychologists call ’mind wandering’ which is essentially living in thoughts about the past or the future but not actually in this moment,” Nate said.
Our attention is constantly being taken today—like reading emails while mid-conversation in a Zoom call—so practicing mindfulness can help you become more present and self-aware.
“A good place to start is just a short period of mindfulness. It would be something like a four by four breath,” Nate said. “It’s this idea of just breathing in for four counts and out four counts four times. It takes about 25 to 30 seconds.”
5. Set a scheduled time outside of work with your loved ones
Kaley and Nate shared that they carve out a bit of time to focus on each other away from work each week. It’s away from their dedicated workspace and all reminders of work—no work clothes or phones—and focused on physical activities. They take 90 minutes every Saturday morning to go on a hike together. This dedicated time with no Zoom meetings, no errands, and no colleague distractions means they can put full energy into that time with one another.
They also said they’ve taken up a new hobby with their daughter: frisbee golf. It’s a way they can change up the mindset after the workday while getting outside together safely. Whether it’s cycling or swimming or painting of whatever else you like to do, Nate recommends leaving space for it after work to help you transition into your personal life again.
6. Commute around the block
No bus rides, crowded subways, or traffic jams—these are the glories of working from home. But your commute was the mother of all transition rituals. You get your music, your podcast, your book, your thinking time. Kaley and Nate recommend recreating this mental space at the end of the workday even if you’re working from home.
Nate said this can be helpful because it helps you create that mental barrier between work and personal life. And for remote employees who don’t want to take a walk or bike ride after work hours, it can be a mental commute.
How to talk to your partner about work life boundaries
When you and a partner are both working from home and trying to navigate the transition out of work each day, it’s tough when only one party participates. Nate and Kaley said there are some small changes you can make to fix this problem of misalignment.
“We have a tool in our book that we talked about a lot called Reveal and Request, which is basically a way of offering your partner feedback, but without getting into drama and, you know, a big argument over it,” Nate said.
To use Reveal and Request, follow these two steps:
First, reveal your emotional experience. The goal is to make sure that your partner understands the impact that their actions have on your emotions. For instance: “When we have this agreement to stop at 5pm and you work till 8pm, I just noticed that I feel upset and I feel resentment.”
Then explain a suggestion for what would help. A simple request, something like, “My request is if you know you’re going to work late and miss our time together, could you let me know a few hours in advance so I can prepare?”
What are the negative impacts for those who don’t make a thoughtful transition from work to home life?
“Taking time to work on your marriage and your relationships can have a profound impact on you, your work, and the world around you,” Nate said.
“If you want to show up at work as your best self, and you want to work from a place of flow and experience really profound productivity, creativity, and innovation, having those moments of rest and recovery and having the support of the people in your life is essential,” Nate said.
Taking care of your relationships also helps others around you—your spouse, your children, your coworkers, your friends. "When you’re more thoughtful about your relationships, it causes a ripple effect on everyone around you."
Find Nate and Kaley Klemp’s new book 80/80 Marriage here.
Written by Emily Hackeling
Originally Published: 8 January 2021