Chances are, you’ve been working from home for the past nine months. Half-dressed kids or needy pets still occasionally pop up in your Zoom meetings, but overall, TAG members have done a pretty good job of creating a healthy work-life balance. But what if you want to tip that scale completely to one side and walk away from your desk for some genuinely uninterrupted holiday time? It can feel impossible given that your office is just steps away. Fortunately, virtual work experts have great advice for setting aside your job and “going home” for the holidays.
Don’t wing it. Define the terms of your holiday before it starts. According to Trina Hoefling, a virtual work authority and co-founder of The Smart Workplace, it’s important to deliberately “carve out” your time off. One way to do this, she says, is to make a pact with your co-workers. “Much like Weight Watchers, publicly committing to taking a restoration break over the holidays together with others helps” she says. “You can also share tips and rituals for how you set boundaries.”
Since being creative isn’t something you can turn off like a light switch, Hoefling has tricks she uses when she’s taking a break. She keeps notebooks and white boards lying around her house, so she can capture a thought or idea just enough that it will make sense when she returns to work. And if out of sight is out of mind for you, designate a place to stash your notes, and they’ll be ready and waiting once you’re back on the clock.
Sometimes a task is unavoidable. Or you’re the kind of person who gets stressed knowing that emails are piling up. “Breathe through the anxiety,” Hoefling says, “and set a limited time to [work] each day to keep the anxiety down. She also advises creating a start-and-stop ritual. She has one colleague who walks around the block turning left to mark the start of his work time, and around the block turning right to mark the end of it. “Silly,” she admits, “but it helps him be in work or home mode.”
Wide-open days can easily lure you back to your desk. Lisette Sutherland, author of Work Together Anywhere and co-founder of Collaboration Superpowers, finds that a good way to keep from being sucked in is to choose something to focus on. This holiday, she and her husband plan to tackle a project around the house. Think about what you’d like to achieve, and keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be a big, so-called constructive enterprise. It might simply be taking a long walk every day, playing endless games of Monopoly with your kids, or binge-watching your favorite show from start to finish with your cat at your side. Just as when you define the boundaries of your holiday, be intentional with how you plan to spend your time.
“Be very patient with yourself,” Sutherland insists. “It’s easy to say you’re going to set boundaries, but the hard part is enforcing them. After this year that everybody’s had, luxuriate in being able to do whatever you want to do.” And if you do slip, go easy on yourself. Not only is this holiday a time for you to consciously rest, it’s also time for you to refresh yourself for the year ahead.—Kim Fay