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THE WORK / HOME SPLIT
Doing one thing at a time may be better after all.

by Doug Dollemore

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Thanks to cell phones, laptops, beepers, and overloaded briefcases, home is often just another place to work. Flexible? Yes. Good for you -- and your job and your family? Maybe not.

When Michigan State University researchers surveyed 95 supervisors and 300 employees at two big multinational corporations, they found that 85 percent were doing some work at home -- often without their supervisor's knowledge. The least stressed: workers who established clear boundaries between the office and family life. The most stressed: multi-taskers who tried to integrate job and personal life.

"Work is a powerful force that can take over our personal lives, pulling us in many directions at once," says study author Ellen Kossek, PhD, a labor and industrial relations expert. "If you're working in the TV room or in the kitchen, it sends a signal to your family that you are available to them."

It's the new mind / body split: Physically, you're at home (and apparently available for changing Barbie's ball gown or holding the wrench for Mr. Fix-It). Mentally, you're at the office, but your boss can't see that.

Mend the split by keeping your mind and your body in the same place. "It's okay to shut work out of our personal lives," Kossek says. So keep your home office separate from living spaces -- and close the door nights and weekends.

Consider adjusting your schedule or hiring child care help a few more hours a week. "Devoting more time exclusively to work may free you to spend more quality time with your family," Kossek notes.

Doug Dollemore is a freelance health writer and author of "Age Erasers for Men: Hundreds of Fast and Easy Ways to Beat the Years"

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