Since the coronavirus pandemic began, more and more Americans are working from home. For many professionals, this is new territory for them and their employers. It may seem like the demands on your time are increasing or that it’s difficult to separate work and home life.
But working from home comes with benefits. Even if you would prefer to work in person, many of us don’t have that choice right now. So before you let work take over your home, start instituting some personal policies to create boundaries.
Communicate with your manager
If you have a direct manager to whom you report, make sure you communicate with this person regularly. In an office space, employees may chat with their managers casually throughout the day. Quick updates are happening all the time. When you’re working remotely, it’s easy for small details to be missed. You have to create those channels of communication through email, phone calls, or video chat.
Don’t be afraid to email your manager with questions or concerns. You can also request a short phone conversation for problems that are solved more easily with a discussion. If your company is new to remote work, there are likely to be growing pains as everyone adjusts to a new way of working. Frequent communication is crucial for developing a routine and keeping everyone on the same page.
Have start and end times
Just like your in-person job, remote work requires a clear start and end time. When working from home, it can sometimes feel like work can happen at any time. You may feel the need to constantly be available.
You can set boundaries for your time by not infringing upon it with work. Be firm with these work hours: when work is over, don’t check your email or respond to work-related messages. Make it clear to your coworkers and manager that you will be available during working hours only.
Don’t make exceptions for emergencies. Very few jobs have true emergencies that can’t wait until the next business day. If your job truly needed someone available during all hours, they would schedule their shifts accordingly.
Create a space (or spaces) dedicated to work
Physical boundaries are important for keeping work from taking over your entire home life. Create a dedicated space for work to happen and stick to it. A desk or table, wherever you have space for it, is enough to create a sense of place while working.
In addition to your dedicated workspace, it can be nice to move around throughout the day. If you have an outdoor space at home, consider taking your laptop outside when the weather is nice. Working on the couch or even in bed, while not recommended, can sometimes offer the motivation needed to get through the day. If you need a comfy space to finish a project, indulge yourself.
If you live in a small space, consider creating an “office in a bag.” This is especially useful if you’re working at a space that isn’t separate from your living space, like a dining room table. During working hours, set out your necessary office supplies, like your laptop, planner, and most-used stationery. At the end of the day, neatly pack your working supplies into a bag or box. Store these items away until the next day. Having this space clear during non-working hours will help separate work and personal time.
Create virtual boundaries
Disconnect your work email from your phone. Seriously. The only place you should be able to check work email is on your computer during work hours. By removing the temptation from your other devices, you’ll be creating a digital boundary.
Don’t check email or log onto work outside of working hours. When you close your laptop for the final time, work is over. It’s important to create those digital boundaries to enjoy your home. Being constantly available and logged into work can create anxiety and stress. Give yourself the freedom from being constantly plugged in while at home.
Learn to say no
This is a difficult skill for many people, but it’s important when working from home. At the office, you physically leave the workspace at the end of the day. It’s much more difficult for managers and coworkers to make after-hours requests when you’re not physically there.
But when working from home, people may demand more of you. Since it feels like everyone is in control of their time, adding to your workload might not seem like a big deal. But these things can add up quickly.
If you find a project or request won’t fit into your working hours, say no. You can do this respectfully and professionally. Remember that creating boundaries on your time IS professional. Everyone deserves to have a balance between their personal lives and work.
What helps you separate work and home?