8 Powerful Ways to Create Boundaries When Working from Home
It's tricky to keep home life separate when you work remotely. However, establishing strategic boundaries makes it possible to find and maintain a healthy balance.
Working from home has become part of the new normal for many people -- and something that could be a permanent work solution. For anyone who has already been remote, you've likely witnessed both the perks and challenges that can exist, perhaps making you ask the looming, frustrating question:
Can a good work/life balance actually exist when you work from home?
And I don't blame you.
In my experience working from home for the past 10 years, I've seen a glaring problem that exists in creating clear boundaries between the job and home life. Without borders, work will inevitably infringe on your personal life. And, just as crucially, distraction will take over.
Is it possible to separate work and play when it is all happening at the same place? Absolutely. Here are eight tips that will help draw a vital line in the sand and help you create an optimal balance.
1. Set Up a Dedicated Workspace
The first and most obvious way to create boundaries when you are working from home is to set up a dedicated workspace. If you can, setting aside a separate room for work is the best option. If that is not possible, then a desk in the corner of a room will suffice. The critical thing here is to physically separate the place that you work from the area where you relax.
2. Have Set Working Hours
You need to set and, more importantly, stick to the hours that you work. Of course, one of the advantages of working from home is the schedule flexibility that comes with it, but there is a time to work and a time to shut off. If you do not work according to a timetable, you will find that work time blurs with leisure time -- which could eventually lead to burnout.
3. Remember That You are Not on Call 24/7
Working from home does not have to mean that you are available for work 24/7. To a large extent, enforcing the hours that are available for work-related matters will be on you, so it is advisable, for example, not to answer emails at all hours. If you do make yourself available to work anytime someone calls or emails you, you will set a precedent that may be tough to break. Set -- or reset -- the expectation and then stick to it.
4. Use Separate Devices
If possible, it can be beneficial if you use separate devices for work and personal use. This way, you can keep your personal and work contacts separate. Having a different computer and phone will also help to prevent you from getting distracted while working or tempted to do a bit of work when you should be relaxing. Of course, if your work phone rings when you are not working, you can choose to let it go to voicemail if you wish. I definitely recommend reaching out to your company to see if they can accommodate this.
5. Learn How to Switch Off
When you work in an office, you have a physical barrier between your work life and your home life. When your work day is finished, you switch off your computer, tidy your paperwork, and have time to unwind on your way back home. When you are working from home, you do not have that clear distinction between work and home -- and in many cases, your commute home is a trip down a hallway or a few stairs. So, it would help if you found a way to make a clean break between work time and leisure time. For example, you could tidy up your workspace and take a ten-minute walk outside while you unwind and switch off from work mode.
6. Tell Family and Friends About Your Boundaries
It is just as important that your family and friends leave you alone when you work from home as it is that you make time for them when you are not working. Inform friends and family what your working hours are and ask them not to disturb you during those hours.
7. Learn How to Say No
You are going to need to be firm with people if you do not want to blur the lines between work and home. There will be times when you need to tell work colleagues no when they ask you to take on jobs that will infringe on your home life. And you will need to be able to say no to friends who may try to tempt you into finishing work early or taking an unscheduled break. It would be best if you stuck to your own rules regarding the boundaries you have set. If you break the rules once, you will inevitably be expected to break them again.
8. Know That You Are in Control
When you work from home, it is your responsibility to manage your time. The maintenance of your work-home boundary is entirely down to you. You may be perfectly happy to have little distinction between your work hours and your leisure hours. If that works for you, then that's your decision. Most people, though, find that creating a boundary is essential to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Redefining Work/Life Balance
Working from home can be great, but you do need to get the balance right between work commitments and home life. Where the 8 tips can help you create the boundaries that will keep work and home separated, you will need to be the one who enforces the rules if you want those boundaries to hold fast.