Going through a tough time? Here's how to keep your professional and personal lives separate

consult a coach
How to keep the professional and personal separateWarner Bros.

Welcome to Consult a Coach, our regular careers clinic for Bazaar readers. Send us your work dilemma, and we’ll ask our career agony aunt – the industry professional, executive coach and motivational speaker Jo Glynn-Smith – to answer it.

Here, Jo advises a reader who is worried that a difficult period in her personal life is affecting her performance at work.

Explore the Consult a Coach archive, full of careers-based advice. Got a question you'd like answered? Email us at consultacoach@harpersbazaar.co.uk

Dear Jo,

I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life recently which has required much of my attention. The problem is that all this disruption is impacting my concentration at work and I’m worried people are starting to notice. How do I separate what’s going on? I love my job, and it represents the only stability in my life right now, so how can I make sure I am giving it 100 per cent as I navigate through the changes in my personal life?

Yours sincerely,


Jo says...

Dear Araba,

Thank you for writing in with this universal issue. Since the pandemic, the lines between our work and home lives have become increasingly blurred and it can understandably feel very difficult to separate the two. It’s also worth knowing that you are not alone; at one time or another, we will all be impacted by a difficult situation outside work. I wouldn’t be surprised if you have several colleagues who are also struggling with a personal issue, just like you are. So, let’s look at what we can do to support ourselves and each other.

Be kind to yourself

You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t affected by change, especially the personal kind. Certainty is one of our human needs, and not having it can feel incredibly uncomfortable; it’s completely normal to feel distracted or consumed by situations like these. Start by being kind to yourself and accepting that change is hard, but remember that the feelings you are experiencing right now will not last forever.

Talk it out

Secondly, find someone in whom you can confide. Talking is one of the best ways to ease pressure and get things off your chest, especially so that you can create some mental space for you to be able to focus more at work. This doesn’t need to be a colleague, just someone who can reassure you that you’re doing OK, check in with you from time to time, and offer you calm, judgment-free support.

Remember your perspective

Thirdly, since you are the one experiencing the change, it makes sense that it feels overwhelming and therefore looks obvious to others. However, unless you have openly and frequently discussed what you are going through with your colleagues, it’s more likely that no one has really noticed. Think of the expression ‘swan-like on the surface, paddling like mad underneath’. Just because you feel one way, it doesn’t mean it’s visible. Most people are so busy managing their own lives, they rarely notice what someone else is going through, and this is largely down to self-perception.

Self-perception is the way we each see the world, our personal lens, and it is completely unique. It is made up of number of highly individualised puzzle pieces, a combination of our upbringing, our belief system, our experiences, our relationships, and our values. You may think that everyone else also knows or sees what’s going on with you, but the truth is probably quite far from that reality.

Stay connected

Finally, one of the best ways to isolate work from home is to physically 'go' to work. If possible, spend more time in the office, or at least away from your home environment, while you navigate this change. That way, you can create physical separation that clearly signals to your brain when it’s time to work, and when it’s personal time again. This may not be as convenient, but it will definitely help with the focus and concentration you are looking for.

Lastly, remember that nothing ever stays the same and that this difficult time will pass.

Good luck!

jo glynn smith
Courtesy of Jo Glynn-Smith

Jo Glynn-Smith is a transformation coach, speaker and personal-brand expert from London who works with leaders, entrepreneurs and businesses to help maximise their team or individual potential. Before becoming a coach, she spent most of her career in the fashion industry working at the highest level with some of the biggest global brands. You can follow Jo for more coaching tips and advice on Instagram (@jojoglynnsmith) or visit her website, joglynnsmith.com.

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