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Work/Life separation? I don’t know her…

Mariah Carey holding an 'I don't know her' sign and smiling

How do we manage a work/life separation?

We all have a reasonable amount of knowledge around what happens when we don’t separate our work lives and home lives effectively enough, yet it often comes as a low priority.

Workplace wellbeing has certainly been brought to the forefront recently, and with the global and local effects of a pandemic still ongoing, it’s never been more essential.

The main issue many employees, employers and everyone in between face is actually how to acknowledge that it’s less of a balance that needs to be struck and more of a separation.

Simply put – it’ll be rare to achieve true balance between personal and professional.

It is much easier to try and draw a line of separation, though!

(Lucky us…)

So, how do you set about achieving a better work/life separation?

Yellow signs saying 'no trespassing'



If you’ve ever read anything by Dark Coffee, or listened to our podcast, or watched any videos of our founder Alice Lyons – you know we can’t get enough of boundaries.

It’s for a good reason!

Boundaries will be different for each person, as they are formed around our own values and what we consider to be important or a priority.

A few examples of boundaries relating to work/life separation are:
– I only want to work 9-5 and only be contactable at these times
– I don’t want to respond to work related emails/phonecalls at weekends
– I want the ability to say no to jobs that don’t suit me/aren’t within my role

These are the foundation with which you can approach your work/life separation! The most important thing to remember about boundaries is that they are only as useful as they are enforced to be.

If you don’t want to be answering work calls at the weekends, then this should be made clear in a way suitable and comfortable for you!

(Don’t email your boss telling him to fuck off on a Saturday night when coming home from the pub after 10pm curfew…)

Neon blue sign saying 'wake up. Kick ass. Repeat'

2- Ignore. Hustle. Culture!

Did you know that UK workers put in over £31 billion worth of unpaid overtime this year?

We can’t stress this enough….. DON’T WORK OVERTIME YOU AREN’T BEING PAID FOR!

In fact, don’t work an hour beyond what you need to just to make a point about how hard you’re working, because not only does it make no sense, it’s detrimental to your wellbeing.

If you love your job, that’s absolutely great!

However, for the vast majority of people putting in extra hours of unpaid work, it’s usually an attempt to seem busier than they are.

That’s understandable – particularly in workplaces where people feel like they are competing for their boss’s favour, but even so….


Work with your strengths where you can, if you have the flexibility to do so.

Whether you’re an early bird, a night owl (or like me, a permanently exhausted pigeon), try to work in your most productive hours and once you switch off, stop working!

Two cups of coffee in blue mugs with Kit Kat bars resting over them

3- Listen to KitKat and take a break

For some people, leaving their desk is an unspeakable thought.

“What if the boss notices my bum is off my uncomfortable chair for longer than a thirty second toilet break?? How will he know how hard I’m working?”

For others, frequent trips to the kitchen for a cup of tea and prolonged chat are one of the few things curbing a spell of insanity.

You need breaks in order to give yourself headspace, if that means taking a walk or putting your earphones in over a cup of tea for ten minutes, so be it!

It’s also an ideal time to socialise, but let’s not all pretend like we don’t do that all day anyway….

The view outside of an aeroplane window with blue skies and the wing of the aeroplane

4- You have the right to…..take a holiday

For some reason, many of us feel extremely guilty about taking time off, even though it is our legal right to do so.

Perhaps you want to take a long weekend, or go the full shebang and have a fortnight away (Covid restrictions permitting), either works well!

Holidays are the perfect time for us to truly remove ourselves from both work and all associations with it. No emails, no phonecalls, no anxiously jumping at every notification.

It is probably the most literal example of work/life separation, but it’s one of the reasons it’s one of the most effective!

Just the calming sound of waves against the sand and the taste of a pina colada….

(Okay, maybe that’s just my wishful thinking.)


neon speech bubble

5- Talk about it

It might seem intimidating depending on your working situation, which we understand completely, but talking over your expectations is usually the easiest way to ensure they are met.

Though ideally these would be laid out at the beginning of a job, as you are entitled to expect things of your employer the same way they expect things from you, most people aren’t fortunate enough to have the chance.

If you have a line manager, team leader or someone you’re more familiar with to talk to, it’d be a great way to potentially emphasise your boundaries in an interaction that isn’t too anxiety-inducing.

The chances are most people will be accommodating of these requests as they probably have similar boundaries of their own.

We spend a LOT of our lives at work.

It’s for that very reason that we should make sure to accommodate our lives outside of work as well, whilst ensuring we’re not running ourselves into the ground at work.

Small changes can make a big impact, and rather than being one of the many people suffering from presenteeism, you can be one of the people who doesn’t want to tear their hair out every time they respond to an 11pm email.

(Please don’t respond to 11pm emails, or I will find a way to personally reprimand you for it!)

You can also download our Workplace Wellbeing PDF if you’re interested in hearing more about that!