Are you thinking about ditching your traditional nine-to-five brick and mortar office space to work from home? If you jump right in with both feet and don’t make a solid plan, you may wind up regretting your decision. When you work in an office that is outside the home it is natural – for most people – to leave work at work and enjoy the time and freedom after they have left the office. So, when your office is at home, how do you leave work? Knowing the answer to that question and putting a plan into action will be what allows you to disconnect from work while you are working from a home office.
I know from personal experience that when working from the comfort of home it is very easy to allow the lines of work and home to be blurred. I recently talked to social media entrepreneur, Natalie Zfat about tips for disconnecting while working from home. You can save yourself and your loved ones a lot of frustration by establishing some clear rules that will enable you to have a pleasant and productive career working remotely for an employer or as an entrepreneur.
1. Keep work in a workspace. A dedicated office will keep work from spilling over onto the dining room table (and potentially interrupting dinner or distracting you during your off time). At the end of the day, close the door or walk away and try not to return until the following morning. Natalie says, “it’s essential to have some sort of dedicated workspace, otherwise your work is spilling over into your personal life both figuratively and literally.” In order to keep your home environment peaceful you need to set those boundaries and a dedicated workplace is one of the easiest boundaries to establish.
2. Create a schedule. Start and end work at the same time each day creating a ritual that separates professional time and personal time. This will make it easier to detach emotionally and physically at the end of the day. Consider logging your time and setting limits for yourself. Natalie recommends home office workers begin and end their work at the same time each day in order to help them separate professional time and personal time. If working on multiple clients or with multiple projects logging your day and time can be helpful too.
3. Take a lunch. Many at home will work through lunch, but it's important to take care of yourself physically and mentally, and lunch breaks are a big part of both. Go outside, or make a yummy lunch but stay away from laundry or the dishes in the sink. Take this time to mentally unwind. Natalie suggest, “setting up regular lunch dates to get yourself out of the ‘office.’” Simply taking time to run to your local coffee shop for a specialty coffee or to the gym will get your mind out of the office and allow you to unwind. This is a crucial step in allowing yourself to disconnect.
4. Create electronic boundaries. Set the tone for when you will and will not answer emails, and follow them. Of course, emergencies may arise, but for anything else take care of it during work hours. Writer, activist, motivator, educator and yoga teacher, Dianne Bondy states her working hours in an automatic response to all original emails. Whether you work from an office or work from a home office there is one fact that is undisputed – you have the capability of having your finger on the pulse of all things work related 24/7 due to smart phones. And while this technology is something that we all thrive on, because it enhances our lives and our ability to communicate immediately, it can also blur the lines between work hours and the hours that we should be enjoying free from work.
5. Know when to say no. There are only so many hours in a day, and remote or freelance workers can take on more than someone who counts down the hours at work. Because of this, know when you can take on more work, and be realistic about the time this work will take before agreeing to it. Managing this and even learning to say no can really be a daunting task for some of us. You want people to think you are a team player and that you are willing to do what it takes. And sometimes we might feel the need to go “over the top” to prove that working from a home office makes us just as capable as being in the office. But it is important to draw the line so that you do not create burnout for yourself. If no is not a word that comes easily to you Natalie suggest trying other phrases that let people know you have set boundaries such as, “I will be happy to look at that tomorrow.”
Working from a home office can be very freeing in a lot of ways. But if you are not prepared for the blurred lines and how to navigate them you will never truly be “off the clock.” Allowing yourself to disconnect from work when you work out of your home is essential to having a clear mind and creating productive work. Whether you are making lunch at home and taking it outside to enjoy the fresh air or meeting up with a friend for lunch outside the home – you have to set some boundaries in order to maintain a work-life balance for yourself.