The work from home movement is growing considerably, and for good reason. But with this monumental shift in how you work comes a likely lull in productivity – or at least some growing pains.
As someone who’s be working from home for over half of my live (and pretty much all of my adult life), I know the struggle. But I also know what works. To combat this, there are a few things you can do to help draw boundaries.
Have a Dedicated Space to Work
If you’re suddenly finding yourself in a work from home situation, you probably don’t have a dedicated home office. But you should at least make some dedicated space for work. This will help you get into the mindset of work and draw some boundaries so you’re not always tempted to work.Have a dedicated work space at home. Click To Tweet
In my single-bedroom apartments, that was often (unfortunately) the bedroom, because it did create space from the rest of the house, and all of its distractions, like TV, kitchen, etc. Plus it was the only room besides the bathroom with a door.
But for you, it could be a section of the living room (facing away from the TV if you have one) or a specific spot at the dining room table. The important bit here it that you want to find a place where you live to help you get into the mind set that, “I’m at work now.”
Talk to the People You Live With
Along with drawing a physical boundary, you’ll need to draw mental boundaries with your family. When I was living at my parents’ house and freelancing, it took them a while to “get” that I was at work, so they’d ask me to do things in the middle of the day.If you live with people, be clear about when you're working. Click To Tweet
Finally we talked, and I’d close my door and they wouldn’t bother me until 5pm. The deal was though, if I was just watching TV or playing video games, I could help at home. A reasonable deal I think. This will probably take some work depending on how understanding your roommates are, but you need to be direct with them:
- “I work from home now, so we need to treat the hours I’m working as If I’m not home.”
- “We can make future plans if need be, just like if I were at the office.”
- “I can let you know if I need a break or I happen to not be working.”
- “Obviously if there’s an emergency, let me know.”
The Kid Factor
If you have small children, this can be extra challenging. My daughter loves to come into my office and “work” with me. Depending on their age and how well they understand, you can calmly explain to them what’s going on. Tell them you’re at work, and even though you’re home, this is an important thing. Tell them that it helps you make money which buys clothes and food.
Don’t yell at them. You want them to begin to appreciate what you’re doing, especially if working from home is not a short-term thing. Eventually they’ll understand.
It’s already easier for many people to “just do this really quick,” thanks to the internet. If you’re working from home, it has the potential to get worse since you now live at your office. Setting hours is so important to making sure your work life doesn’t consume your home life – especially if you have coworkers in other timezones.
With flexibility comes responsibility, so choose your schedule wisely. It can be your normal “9–5” hours. If you’re most productive in the mornings or evenings, they can likely revolve around that. But you should set aside time to say, “I’m at work until X, then I’m not working anymore.”
Note: I understand that sometimes this won’t work. But get into the practice now and you’ll be able to say no a lot more often. Only say yes when you have to.
Communicate With Your Boss and Coworkers
One of the giant benefits of working from home is that a coworker can’t just drop by your desk and interrupt whatever you’re doing. That said, you should still let them know when you’re at work (and when you’re not).Communication is super important working from home. Be sure to let coworkers know your availability. Click To Tweet
If you are doing a modified schedule, make sure to communicate that to the people you work with – tell them when you’ll be in the office. If you’re using Slack or some other chat program at work, set your status when you’re away. That way they don’t expect a response back in a timely manner.
It’s a little different for me, since I’m independent, but I set a status in most Slack teams that say, “Email is better,” and then my email address. It’s also something I tell my clients. Email, above else, will get the best, most timely response. I check that most often, and the email remains in my inbox until it’s dealt with.
Get Up and Stretch!
This is good advice for working in the office too, but definitely get up and stretch. If you can, go outside for a bit for a chance of scenery. You can go a little stir-crazy working from home if you don’t.Talk walks and stretch to get the blood flowing and to change the scenery. Click To Tweet
Now that the weather is nice, I like to go outside and work from my deck. It’s a nice change of scenery. I know I said in the first tip to have a dedicated work space. But changing it up, if only for an hour or so, can help too.
In either case, getting up, or going for a 15 minute walk to get the blood flowing can be a big help.
What are Your Work From Home Questions?
Wondering about something specific? Let me know in the comments!