How do I keep work and play separate?

Separation anxiety

As we mutate into a hybrid workforce and home/work boundaries further blur, we must pull off a mental trick not only to get ourselves out of bed on dark mornings but also to cleanly, mentally transition from our home lives to our work lives - and back again.

January 12, 2022

The anxiety in this case is about not being able to separate rather than of finding separation unbearable. Not being able to stop thinking of work work or having difficulty in tuning out of home and back into work.


Having difficulty motivating ourselves was always a potential problem back in the days of going to work in an office or other place.However in those days we had the luxury of transition time afforded to us by our commute, such as it was. Now we must pull off a mental trick not only to get ourselves out of bed on a dark morning but also to mentally transition from our home lives to our work lives.


For the most part we are paid to draw on our rational, mature, generous, brave and even fearless qualities in order to carry out our jobs. At home with either friends or family we are asked to draw on the empathic, human, tender and relaxed elements of ourselves in order to be able to fit in and contribute, there.


So how can we pull off these transitions each day when geographical and physical restrictions force us to work and play at the same tables, sit in the same chairs, drink out of the same mugs and look out of the same windows?


Here are three ideas for you to experiment with. Hopefully you may invent some hybrids (pun intended) once you have read my suggestions.



Separate, as much as you can, the selection of clothing that you use at work from that which you wear in your leisure time - even down to your shoes.



Do not work whilst you are eating breakfast. Do not eat breakfast whilst you are working. In other words reserve special time for eating and for enjoying the food that you have on the table – especially at the start and end of each day. Treat meals as a pleasure and not as a mere refuelling stop.



If you want to cheer yourself up whilst you are in work hours, or at least in work 'mode', move locations. In other words, leave the room that you are working in and go out into the street or the garden or just about any other place to have your bit of unwinding time. Whilst you are in that ‘private space’ do not be tempted to start checking your emails and Teams messages.


As you can see, this is really all about maintaining contrasting habits, spaces and ways so that your mind can distinguish between work and play modes even if you can't change your context as dramatically as you used to be able to. ‘Headspace’ is just that, space in our head. With practise we can all create these changes of pace, mood and attitude without having to rely on external physical and geographical props.

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