October 28, 2020

Setting Boundaries When Working From Home

We expect remote work to make our lives easier in most ways: the morning commute becomes a trip to the kitchen for coffee, the suit becomes pajamas and slippers, and our desk becomes the living room sofa.

In reality, remote work comes with its own set of specific challenges and distractions, making it surprisingly hard to get work done. And if this sounds familiar, research shows that you’re not alone. Fortunately, spending a little time setting boundaries can help make these issues disappear. To get started, you’ll need to take a few basic steps.

Stick to a Routine

Just because you can work whenever you like doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest to do so. Some of the highest performing people in the world incorporate daily routines and rituals into their lives to set boundaries between their personal home lives and their work lives.

Depending on the hours you need to be online for work, here are a few things you might want to consider in your routine:

  • Waking at a set time
  • Spending time on morning rituals like exercise, breakfast, getting coffee
  • Avoiding social media during the productive morning hours
  • Taking care of your creative tasks early in the day, with mindless work in the later hours
  • Having a set lunch break, as well as frequent breaks throughout the day
  • Time blocking to maximize your workload, using techniques like the Pomodoro method
  • Stopping work at a set time for a healthy work-life balance

Don’t forget to always take break times seriously, including your days off. If you’ve established that you aren’t working on weekends, for example, make sure to unplug completely, without being tempted to “just check in.” Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope back to constantly being “on!”

Communicate Your Schedule to Your Family or Housemates

When your office is also your home, it’s easy to become distracted by those around you. Once you’ve decided on a schedule that works for you, communicate it to your housemates. Let them know when they should give you space to work, and when it’s alright to reach out to you. Setting boundaries in this way can be as easy as “I’m working until five on weekdays” or “Whenever I’m in my office, I’m working.” Be polite but firm about these boundaries to create a much healthier work-life balance.

Communicate Your Schedule to Your Team

There are a lot of benefits to technology (including the ability to work from anywhere!), but one of the downsides is that we’re always connected. Without proper boundaries, this can mean that our team expects us to be “on” even during moments outside of our established work schedule. This is why it’s critical to be specific when communicating with your team about when and how you can be reached for work purposes. 

For example, maybe you’re not available for meetings after a certain time, or maybe certain hours of the day when you’ll generally be unavailable. On the other hand, you might want to communicate specific unavailability—like when you’re neck-deep in a difficult project—by adjusting your status in the chat tool your team uses.  

If you’re careful, you can keep remote work from disrupting your work-life balance and wreaking havoc on your peace of mind. Prioritizing yourself and setting boundaries is the key to making this work—so take a little time to make it happen. If you’re interested in more insights for better remote work, check out our other posts or jump into a mastermind group for more specific tips and tricks! 

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