A couple months ago I wrote an article for the Financial Times on the power of routines. Angela Haupt writes in The Washington Post about the invention of one routine for our pandemic age: the “fake commute:”

Jon Jachimowicz, an assistant professor of business administration in the organizational behavior unit at Harvard Business School, says commuting provides “a temporal and spatial separation between all the different roles we play.” It’s a buffer that eases the transition from one identity to the next, a consistent dose of in-between time to reflect and reset.

Before the pandemic, the average commute was 38 minutes each way, Jachimowicz’s research indicates. Not only have employees lost that buffer, but they have also taken on more work: about 48 extra minutes per day. They are also dealing with more meetings and more communication that spills into off hours, according to findings published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in July.

When we don’t psychologically detach from work, we risk becoming exhausted and burned out, says Samantha Pieknik, a licensed clinical psychologist in Phoenix. “We’ve lost that time to sit with ourselves and shake everything off from the day,” she says. “We’re working at home and we’re sleeping at work, and it’s really confusing for our brains.”…

A fake commute, however, can help you reclaim that precious transition time and reestablish the boundaries that have been blurred from working from home, something that Giza has learned. He now “commutes” about 100 miles per week. Before adopting the practice, “I didn’t have the usual time to clear my head,” he says, which made it difficult to be focused while he was in work mode or fully present when he was in home mode….

Pieknik, who now offers telehealth services from her home rather than commuting 10 minutes to her private practice, has added a fake commute to her mornings: She drives out to get coffee. She recommends the habit to others. “It doesn’t have to be super elaborate,” she says. “It’s just a matter of tricking your brain into starting a new routine.”