UC Irvine Professor Discusses Mental Health Tips for Working at Home

Jessica Borelli is the associate professor of psychological science at UC Irvine.
UC Irvine Professor Discusses Mental Health Tips for Working at Home
Photograph by Emily J. Davis

How do you separate work and leisure time if you don’t have a dedicated office?
This is something that’s challenging even when we’re not in a pandemic. But it’s heightened during this time. One of the things that can be most effective is setting boundaries around time. So having a clocking in and out time and not breaking those boundaries. You can also think about visually hiding everything work-related, so you don’t have reminders of work when you’re trying to relax. Even something as crude as throwing a blanket over your desk will work. The other thing I try to do is change clothes for the workday. I’m a pajamas person. But putting on nicer clothes for work changes your physical state, which can help your body know that you’re entering a new psychological state. Otherwise, it can feel like one long workday that never ends.

What about working parents with kids at home?
The first thing to do is just acknowledge how hard this is and be gentle with yourself. This might not be the time when you’re going to excel in either work or parenting. We’re really being taxed to our limits here. Figure out what are the nonessential responsibilities that you can be cutting from your life. Allow yourself to have downtime. Take a few breaks during the day. Take a short walk outside. And do something at the end of the workday—have dinner, work out, anything that gives you closure and solidifies the idea that you’re entering the relaxation part of the day.

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