Working from home has endless benefits. You can sleep in and avoid a commute. You can work in your pajamas, eat lunch whenever you feel like it, take breaks to exercise...or, not.
You set your own schedule.
But there are downsides to working from home, one of which is potentially getting saddled with all of the housework. Your partner, children, or roommate may start expecting you to take care of everything since you’re home all day.
I can relate. I work from home full-time, aside from a few weekly coffee shop visits, and often revel in the fact that I can do whatever, whenever. And while that may be true to an extent, I have to keep boundaries with myself and with others so that I’m not expected to do everything at home while also trying to hustle and write for 8 or more hours a day.
When you’re working from home, you’re still working. You still have a job and need to focus solely on work throughout most of your day. You can’t be picking up the kids or setting up IKEA furniture or letting the cable guy in 24/7. You are still part of the workforce.
You understand this, but your cohabitants may not.
Here are some suggestions to help you avoid becoming the house catch-all when working from home.
1. Set clear boundaries
First and foremost, talk to your people. Tell them, “Hey, listen. I’m happy to help out around the house when I can. But I work all day, so just because I’m here doesn’t mean I can do all the housework.” Bam. Start there, with a simple, inarguable statement.
Make it clear that you are still working and that your focus time is as valuable and necessary as it would be if you were working full-time in an office.
Setting boundaries can be as simple as having this initial conversation. Or, you can remind them of this once a week, or once a day, or once an hour; whatever works. Hopefully, your family or friends will get it through their heads that your job is at home; home is not your job.
2. List out chores so everyone is contributing
A great way to avoid doing all the housework is to create a chore chart. This may sound like you’re at summer camp or in college again, but it can actually work for any adult household. List out daily chores and assign them to everyone equally.
This way, the people you live with will have to hold up their end of the bargain just as much as you will. Keep things equal in the chore department, and you won’t be viewed as the go-to maid, just because you work from home.
3. Treat your home office like an office
This is important for a variety of reasons, but it can also help you avoid getting stuck with all the responsibility at home.
Create a designated office space, even if you don’t have a separate room for this purpose. Even if you have to put up a sign with your name on it during working hours, do something that will signal to your cohabitants that this is your time and space to work.
This will help everyone, including you, recognize that your work-from-home situation is just as important and productive as a desk in a company’s office space. If you treat your home workstation like an office, others will, too.
4. Keep regular hours
Make it clear that you will not be available for chores, errands, or other tasks during set hours of every day. Maybe you have time for a thirty-minute lunch break and a trip to the post office, but leave it at that.
Don’t change your regular work schedule around just so you can run someone else’s errand or clean up the kitchen before your significant other gets home. Trust me—from someone who works from home full time, keeping regular hours is crucial to avoid doing all the housework when you should be working for your clients.
While you may have more flexibility to contribute to chores and obligations during the day, don’t let others take advantage of your work situation. Set clear boundaries, make chore lists so all the work isn’t being dumped on you, treat your home office like any office, and keep regular hours.
These are all important steps to take to ensure you are still separating work life from home life; a necessary division for any working woman, remote or not.
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By Meredith Boe