I worked from home with part time hours for a smidge over 3 years. During that time I learned quite a few things, both about myself and about creating a work/life balance. I don’t consider myself an expert in any of this, but I figured I would share some of the things that I learned over the past few years in case it could help someone else.
Working from home is a bit of a unique struggle because you want to set boundaries, a time/space for your job that is separate from your everyday life. A lot of times, when that physical space of the office is in our own home, you feel as though you are always at work. Boundaries are much more likely to get muddled or not exist at all. You may feel as though you are never not at work, or like you cannot disconnect from your job.
I learned the hard way on how to make working from home work for me and from time to time I struggled with those boundaries. But, I’ve made it through and I’m hopeful that if want to work from home, you can too!
Tip #1: Create a space that is able to be separate from your home for your office.This may seem like common sense, an office or a desk set up in a quiet corner of your home, but this is probably one of the hardest tips to stick with. When you have that space, you ONLY do work in THAT SPACE. You do not do work in other area’s of your house and you do not bring “non work” into that space. This space would also preferably have a door or some way of sectioning it off from the rest of your house. Think of it this way, when you work in an office, the best part of the day is being able to leave the office and leave your work behind for the evening, right? So, why would you not want to create that same illusion at home. In our previous home, our office was downstairs and was cordoned off by both stairs and a baby fence (as there were times when I would have to contain a child while working).
A note on creating your office space: You do want to make sure the space is welcoming and set up the way you want and need. Make it a nice space that you want to work, not somewhere where you feel like you dread going to. Natural light is a big help, as is small pieces of home décor.
Tip #2: Have specific times set aside as work time.Now, this tip only matters if you have flexible hours, but I wanted to touch on it as I found this was another thing that really helped me and is a hard one to stick with. It’s the same concept as the separate space in your home. You need to have certain hours that are set aside each day (they don’t necessarily have to be the same hours everyday, but should be the same week to week, e.g. M/W/F 8-12, T/TH 1-5) and those are the only hours that you do work during. Now obviously if there is an emergency or something that comes up that changes (as it would in a normal work environment), but the important fact is that you have the stability of hours. You work during those hours and when it is not those hours, you are not working. This is good not only for yourself, but for your coworkers as well (if applicable).
Tip #3: Get Dressed.If you’ve been around here long enough, you know all about this tip. This is a tip that I just apply to life in general, but is even more important when you are working from home. You are not going to feel the same motivation and high productivity level while working if you are in your pajamas or sweat pants that you will if you take a little bit of time in the morning to put on jeans or slacks and a nice top. There is just some sort of way that we all feel when we are in sweatpants that we don’t feel when we are in actual clothes. If you want, you can change into sweats after you’ve finished working to “signal” to yourself that the workday is over and you can relax.
Tip #4: Take breaks, eat your lunch somewhere else, get outside. This is an important one because a lot of times when we work from home, we don’t take the breaks that we need to. We need to get away from the desk, away from the computer (or phone) and out into the world. Realistically, this tip applies if you are working in an office as well. Do not take lunch at your desk, do not skip out on breaks, make sure you are stretching your body out throughout the day. If you don’t, you’ll either feel much more tired come the end of the day or you will be a little bit more short tempered in stressful situations. Take a step away, that is what lunch and breaks are meant for.
Tip #5: Take time off.Another one that feels like a no brainer, but it so hard to do. Here’s the thing, when we are working from home it is actually much harder to take time off than you would think. You’re office is right down the hall and since you are in the comfort of your own home, it is easier to work through a sickness or through a time where maybe you shouldn’t be working. It can turn into a problem and while I wouldn’t say take time off all the time, make sure that you are taking vacation time and if you are sick, take a sick day if you can. Don’t over work yourself simply because you work from home and it’s “easy” with no commute.
Those are my top tips for working from home. If you hadn’t noticed the theme, it is mostly to treat working from home much the same way that you would treat working in an office. You need to have a set space, set hours, and the ability to take breaks. The hardest thing about working from home is that instead of going to and from an office, having a separate space from your home, you are simply walking down the hall (or down some stairs) and there you are. It is so much harder to feel disconnected from work when it is just right there. It can be done though, it just takes patience and discipline as you figure out what works for you. I hope that these tips will help you if you work from home!