Whether you’ve been doing it for a while or are just getting into the habit, working from home is not like working from an office. Many workers have embraced the idea, finding they work more efficiently and productively from home. Others have found they miss the camaraderie of water cooler/coffee machine talk and the opportunities for in-person collaboration. Almost everyone has struggled at one point or another to find a work-life balance. Read on for some tips on separating your home life and work-life when you work from home.
The first step to separating your professional and personal lives is to create a dedicated workspace. The ideal situation, of course, is a home office because you can close the door on work at the end of the day. But, alas, that’s not always possible. However, even if you’re not able to have a home office, there are still ways to create a sense of separation. If you can, set up a desk in a quiet area of your home. For some, that might be in the living room, while others might prefer to have their desk in their bedroom. If there’s no space for a desk, you’ll likely find yourself working at the kitchen or dining room table.
When you set up your workspace, add the personal items you might have had at the office. Make sure you have space for your coffee mug and water bottle; add a couple of family or pet photos; drape a sweater over your chair for those cooler mornings. When your workday is finished, store everything in seagrass baskets and then tuck the baskets out of sight until the morning. This is especially important if you are working in a space that you share with other family members — if only to prevent, say, a mischievous cat from knocking your (computer) mouse off the table.
One way to distinguish work life from home life is with your wardrobe. Sure, it’s easy to throw on a pair of sweatpants or yoga pants and whatever T-shirt you have laying around. In reality, though, you’re still going to have meetings; therefore, you’ll want to look presentable, at least from the waist up. So, swap out that ratty sweatshirt for a women’s dress shirt. Choose one in your favorite color. You can even coordinate with your bottoms so that you feel a bit more put together. And while you don’t necessarily have to go all out when it comes to makeup, it never hurts to swipe on a coat of mascara and some lipstick.
When your day is over, make it a point to change into a more casual top, much as you might do if you were coming home from the office. Swap your blouse for a T-shirt or tank top, throw on one of your comfy hoodies, grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and give yourself 15 minutes to decompress.
Working from home offers many employees the flexibility to put in their 40 hours whenever they want, so long as the work gets done. Others, however, still need to keep to the standard 8-9-hour workday. If such is the case, mimic the routines you followed in the office as much as possible. Take your meal and other breaks at the same time you used to. If you made it a habit to periodically get up and walk around at certain times throughout the day, do the same at home. Make it a point to touch base with your coworkers around your company’s virtual water cooler. If you did so at the office, block out times for meetings, respond to emails, and work on projects.
Most of us have become all but permanently attached to our cell phones and other devices; sometimes, it seems like we’re receiving emails and texts 24/7. As such, it’s important to disconnect. In fact, many managers are encouraging their employees to do just that as a way of preventing or at least staving off burnout. So, shut off notifications on your work messaging app. If it helps, move the app off the home screen for the evening so that you’re not tempted to peek. If you have separate laptops for work and personal use, put your work laptop away in a tote bag or briefcase. If you use one computer for everything, set up separate login accounts for work and leisure. This will also help with eliminating notifications. Once you’ve disconnected, allow yourself to be present for your significant other, your children, or your pet — or simply for yourself.
Creating a work-life balance is not easy, particularly when you work from home. However, practicing small ways to create separation between your home life and work life is crucial. As a result, you’ll find yourself better able to not only do your work but also put it away when the workday is over.