Why It’s Important to Keep Your Work and Home Life Separate
In today’s online-driven world, where we’re constantly connected to friends and colleagues through smartphones and social media, it can be hard to keep your home and work life separate. And with so many of us now working from home, it’s becoming increasingly harder to create clear divisions between our jobs and our lives. But this sort of separation is important, not just for your own mental health, but for your relationships.
In every organisation, there are two types of employees: those that blend their personal lives in with their work lives (integrators) and those that set clear boundaries between both (segmenters). While it’s important to get on with everybody at work (for your sake and that of your employer), it is also important not to allow your work life to spill over into your personal life.
So what kind of an employee are you? And should you be doing more to keep your work and home life separate?
Segmenters vs integrators
In The Journal of Vocational Behavior, J.B. Olson-Buchanan and W. R. Boswell (2006) theorise that when employees set clear boundaries between their work life and home life, they’re less likely to experience conflict between the two fronts. They put themselves in a position to give both lives enough attention; in other words, they’re able to switch off one and concentrate on the other.
For example, a segmenter dealing with personal issues at home can simply ‘switch off’ when they start work. Vice versa, if they’re experiencing pressures at work, they can ‘switch off’ once they shut down for the day. This can help to reduce work-related stress, anxiety or other symptoms of ill mental health.
Integrators, on-the-other-hand, allow their work lives to blend into their home life. They’re more likely to talk about work at the dinner table or invite colleagues over for a party. Positive work experiences are likely to influence their home experiences and vice versa. While this is a positive example, it could also work to their disadvantage. Negative emotions experienced at home can also influence their experience at work which would in-turn influence morale, engagement and in most cases productivity.
The importance of separation
There are many reasons why separating home and work life is so important.
Firstly, to maintain your mental health. A mentalhealth.org survey estimates that one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. In the workplace, your inability to create a work-life balance that works for you can lead to stress which can lead to burnout.
When left unaddressed, problems like stress, depression or anxiety can feed into bigger underlining mental health issues. The good news is many employers now recognise the importance of promoting positive mental health in the workplace and how it affects productivity and are changing their office culture to one that encourages positive mental health.
Separating your personal from your work life can also increase your work productivity. It should go without saying that your employers want employees who are hard-working and productive. Working after regular hours is proven to actually be less productive.
Advantages for employees
Encouraging the separation of home and work life allows employees to ‘switch off’ after work and come back raring to go. As we’ve already established, work-related stress is real and affects a large number of employees.
A major advantage of establishing a healthy separation between work and home is reducing burnout. Other advantages for employees include:
- Increased productivity
- Low absenteeism
- Less stress
- Improved employee health and wellbeing
- Stronger loyalty to the company
Advantages for employers
But embracing and encouraging a healthy work-life balance is not only beneficial to employees. Organisations can also benefit greatly from employees that separate their work life and their home life.
The first is reduced turnover and the costs associated with regular recruitment. Employee turnover is said to be costing employers around £11,000 per employee per year.
In terms of non-profit organisations, this cost could be allocated to more important things. Other advantages to employers include:
- Boost competitiveness
- React to changing market conditions
- Attract top talent from other sectors
Tips for striking the perfect work-life balance
Regardless of the type of employee you are, there are many benefits to creating boundaries between your work life and your personal life. Here are some tips to striking the perfect balance between home and work:
Manage time effectively: Create a work schedule that allows you to complete tasks effectively without the need to cut into your personal time. Be sure to adhere to this schedule, set a goal to leave the office at a certain time (or shut down at a certain time if you’re working from home) and stick to that too. This’ll help you stay on track and means you’re less likely to let both worlds collide.
Communication: The key to building understanding is communication. While you might be required to work late or during the weekends on occasion, you should learn to say ‘no’ (politely of course) if it means forgoing on activities in your personal life.
Limit social media connections: You don’t have to connect with your line manager or the owner of your organisation or the guy that you never talk to but sits behind you in the office. Review tagged images before they appear on your timeline.
Ditch the phone: For those of us with work phones, consider implementing a ‘no phone’ policy at home. There’s nothing worse than a fun time with the family being spoilt by a call from work about something that could wait till Monday. Of course, there are some exceptions to this but in most cases, the job can wait till you’re on the clock.
Invest in your health: Make physical and mental exercise part of your routine. A healthy body and mind allow for optimal functionality in your personal life or life.
Never underestimate the power of positive mental health. Setting boundaries to separate your work and personal life not only increases efficiency at work, but it also reduces stress in your personal life. Both of these mean more relaxation and less burnout. And for employers, it means a reduced turnover rate while building a reputation as a great place to work.
David Price is group director for Health Assured: a provider of innovative health & wellbeing solutions. He advises employers daily on how to encourage and develop a healthy workplace, whilst outlining best practice guidance on how to combat and control workplace stress.