Maintaining boundaries when working from home

Maintaining boundaries when working from home
Working from home has become something a lot of us have been adjusting to
over the last year or so and, with the latest lockdown restrictions, this type of
working environment is something that doesn’t look likely to change anytime
soon. But how do you maintain your work/life balance when both exist in the
same space? The best way to work from home without it consuming your life is
by setting boundaries. So we’ve come up with some go-to boundaries that
should help make this period a little easier.

01. Create physical space

We know that, especially when living in the city, it’s not always feasible to find
extra space to work from home. But it’s important to have a designated working
space that feels different to your living space. It might mean clearing space
against the wall for a desk that you only use for work. It might involve clearing
your current desk and ensuring no non-work items are around to distract you.
If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room or part of the home that isn’t
regularly used, then you could even co-opt that space as a totally separate
working environment.
For some of us, hot-desking was a common workplace practice, so you could try
the same thing at home and work across a few spaces. But make sure it’s a
clear, clean, and distraction-free environment so you can trick your brain into
getting out of ‘home’ mode.

02. Create a routine

Another way to build clear boundaries between work and home life is to have a
routine, much like you would if you worked outside the home. That means
getting up at a certain time, getting showered or changed into a ‘uniform’ - even
if it’s more casual, make it purposeful - and getting to your work space at a set
time. The same way an office operates, take meal breaks, work through your
tasks, and at the end of the day, have a clear knock-off time so the lines don’t
get blurred and you wind up working until 11pm. Committing a time slot before
or after work each day is a great way to do this. 

04. Get outside

When you work from home, it can be easy to slip into a pattern of never leaving
the house. So as part of your daily routine, it’s important to have some outside
time built in. During COVID times, this one gets a little trickier, but it’s still
possible. Exercising outside is an essential reason to leave your home during a
lockdown, and it’s a great way to clear your mind and switch off from work. You
might go for a walk before work to start the day fresh or use afternoon exercise
as a way to cap off the work day and draw a line between work and home.


Another way to get out of your house and split up the day is to conduct
‘walking meetings’ where you walk and talk in your backyard or around your
neighbourhood. And if you’re used to a commute where you listen to podcasts or
music on your walk to the train, why not fake a commute and start your work day
with a quick lap around the block before returning inside?

05. Take your days off seriously

When you work from home, it becomes very easy to ‘just send that email’ or
‘just finish that quick task’. But if you don’t want your work life to interfere with
your home life, you need to have firm boundaries around your time off.
When the work week has ended, shut down your work computer, turn off email
notifications, put away your work clothes, notebooks, and equipment - and just
be ‘off’.

06. Create ‘home’ boundaries as well

We get so caught up on keeping work life out of home life, that we can often
forget all the ways home life creeps into work. But when you’re working from
home, this is an essential boundary that needs enforcing. Tell your household
the hours you’ll be working - and when you don’t want to be disturbed. Plan your
lunch-breaks so you can spend time together before you go back to work.
Be clear about your work boundaries when you have Zoom meetings or need t
o focus, and find ways to be respectful of each other’s space if you both work
from home. 
And importantly, remind yourself of these boundaries. That means no washing
dishes when making coffee, hanging a load of washing out when you’re
supposed to be working, or falling victim to the excuse that ‘you’re at home
so you can do it’ - for everything from tradie visits to child-caring. 
That’s not to say you can’t take advantage of being at home - because it can
make home life easier. And of course, in lockdown, the lines between home
and work are going to overlap and blend together, especially if you’ve got kids
at home too. And not everyone will have the support or luxury of being able to
set these boundaries in concrete. But try to be clear on when you need to be
‘at work’ and when you can take a quick break to pick up kids or put the
dishwasher on. You don’t want to wind up doing housework all day and then
having to catch-up on work late at night. 

Be realistic

During lockdowns, the work from home lifestyle happens by order, not choice,
and it might not suit everyone. And when there’s a few of you at home during
the work day, these boundaries can easily fade. But maintaining space between
work and life will keep your mental health stronger, your brain more productive,
and it’ll keep burnout at bay. 
Wherever possible, create boundaries to separate the two aspects of your life,
and be clear at any given time which headspace you’re in - so you can be fully
present wherever you are.