The Last Commute

Bob Goldman on

Now that there are zero degrees of separation between our homes and our jobs, we face 24/7 workdays with no way to escape phone calls, emails and, of course, Zoom meetings from hell.

It wasn't always the case.

Long ago, we had our beloved commute, twice-a-day interludes of calm and reflection as we traveled between the home and the office. This was quality "me time," an opportunity to contemplate the vagaries of the human condition while waiting for the moron in front of us to realize a light had changed. And, if we were lucky enough to get totally caught in an early morning traffic snarl, we could explore the outer limits of mental illness as our supervisors raged at us for being a few stupid minutes late.

At this point, we don't know when we'll be able to go back to the pleasures of commuting, but there are ways we can keep some of its benefits. I refer you to Nina Bartmann, a senior researcher at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University and the author of "Separating Work-Life From Home-Life During COVID-19," a recent post on the website of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.

Bartmann understands that the lack of physical -- and mental -- distance between work and home can make "days appear longer, stressful, and chaotic." That's why she has developed "an easy, 5-step solution based on these commuting benefits to help you successfully establish work-life boundaries when the home is the new office."

Taking a look at her plan represents a good step forward.


No. 1: "Put your work materials aside."

To protect you from letting work infect your home life, Bartmann recommends that, "at the end of the workday, take concrete steps to physically distance yourself from your work, even if that means just hiding it." She closes her laptop and then puts it in her backpack.

My recommendation is you put your laptop in your backpack and then bury it in your backyard. You'll want six-foot hole, at least, and fill it in promptly, preferably with cement. The next morning, you can arrive at the scene with your jackhammer, refreshed and ready to get to work. (If you don't have a backyard, bury your work in someone else's backyard. For true separation, don't make note of the address. You'll remember it the next morning, or not.)

No. 2: "Change your clothes."


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