Shifting Identities from Work to Home

Building on last week’s blog post on handling changes in the workplace, this week we take a look at managing shifting from our work identities to our home identities. While so many of us now work, and in jobs that can cause us a great deal of stress, it still seems that perhaps women have an easier time with the transition from work to home persona. So in honour of Movember – Men’s Health Awareness Month – we encourage you to read and share this article with the men in your life. And to get your silly on!

Many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work.

The work day demands a certain amount of discipline and focus. Chances are, you’re not exactly the same person at home that you are at work. Your personality is still the same, but at work you may be more purposeful and goal oriented.

Maybe you are in a leadership position in your workplace, tasked with being in charge of employees or making big decisions on behalf of your company. If you are a CEO or in upper administration, you probably feel the additional pressure of the bottom line and bear a lot of company responsibility.

Shifting from a pressured, high responsibility job back into home life can be a challenging process.

Often people struggle with the transition from work to home because of the vast difference in expectation from one setting to the next. Employers, co-workers and subordinates expect decisiveness and confidence. Family and friends expect support, love and a more relaxed version of you.

Trying to toggle between the work-self and the home-self can be enough to make your head spin. You are likely to have stressors in both places, but different kinds of stressors. You have responsibilities in both places, but different kinds of responsibilities. It is impossible to generalize a skill set for both places because they demand such different parts of you.

Easing The Transition

As you explore ways to transition from work-self to home-self, consider the following ideas:

Develop a transition plan:

Between work and home, create a routine that involves breaking away from the work-version of you. If you have time for a gym visit between your work day and return home, this is a healthy way to transition. Other helpful options could include mindfulness activities such as meditation or yoga.

Create a symbolic disconnection:

Sometimes a transition from work to home can be simple and quick. Symbolism is a powerful tool for the human mind. Develop a method of releasing work stressors, whether it is changing out of your work clothes immediately after getting home, taking a shower to symbolically wash away the cares of the day, or creating some end-of-day affirmations to close out your work day.

Get your silly on:

Embrace the parts of your personality that may not get much room to breathe at work, such as your silly side. Plan a transition activity for when you get home to get fully into your home life; maybe that is a game of charades, making faces at your family or watching hilarious stand up comedy.

Embrace whatever will help you make that leap from work identity to home identity. Bring your family in on the plan so that it is intentional. Your loved ones may also benefit from moving away from their daytime roles into the more relaxed home atmosphere.

Start a family check in:

When your home time begins, set aside time to check in with family living in the home. A great time to have a routine check in is dinner time when everyone is in the same area and least distracted. Asking others about their day and sharing aspects of your own can help reinforce that each of you is coming from a different day with different expectations. If it helps, ask each person to share the best and worst parts of their day. Sometimes hearing about someone else’s day can be a great way to transition away from the worries of one’s own.

Ask what would help:

It may be useful to ask your loved ones for feedback. Being too close to the problem may make it difficult to see your behaviors and transitional issues clearly. Ask your loved ones what they observe in you and if they have ideas to help support your transition from work to home.

Find a transition theme song:

Crank up a song that resonates as a theme song to your “real life” outside of work. Maybe it’s even a series of songs that can turn your commute home into a winding-down session.

It’s difficult to keep the balance between work and home identities. If your work-related activities tend to use more mental energy than anything else, try to be even more conscientious about being active on your days off. If your work is mostly physical, be sure to get involved with challenging mental tasks to balance out your activities. It’s also important to balance out the emotional style of your work and home environments.

Maybe work is super stressful; if so, be sure to participate in activities that are light-hearted, stress-free and fun on your down time. If you work with a particular population of people, (for example if you are an elementary school teacher) try to diversify your time with other types of people on your time off (go visit some older relatives or friends). It’s all about balance.

The work and home versions of yourself are simply different variations of the whole, complex person that is you.

Nurture your entire self and explore the varying aspects of mind, body and spirit. If you begin to feel stuck in a particular “way of being” that could be an indication that you have forgotten to expand into these other arenas. Everyone gets a bit stuck at times. Venture into unknown territory.

Learn a new hobby or take a course in something you’ve always wanted to learn. Sometimes stepping back from it all and making a ‘bucket list’ can help you reconnect with the things that are important to you. Have you always wanted to go to Greece? Learn Italian or cook the perfect lemon soufflé? Add some bucket list items that have nothing to do with career aspirations to make sure it doesn’t turn into a resume-building agenda.

Being committed to your career is an honorable choice, as long as it doesn’t take over your entire life. You can be your best self when your own needs are being met. If you are refreshed and your life is in balance, your career will see an improvement by default.

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website www.livingwithfinesse.com]

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