Working from home is great, but without balance, it can be detrimental to your personal life. Sometimes, in efforts to be successful, you accidentally put your work-life balance on the back burner. So how does one get it right? Here are four tips for keeping your work and personal life separate while working remotely.
1. Designate a workspace
This is the best starting point and will help your overall success working from home. When your work life and real life live under the same roof, it’s important to have clear boundaries
Just as you wouldn’t sleep at your desk, you shouldn’t work from your bed. Almost everyone I know who has worked from home has been guilty of this at one point or another, and it’s easy to see how negatively it can affect your day. If I wake up and immediately open my laptop to work while I’m still in bed, I tend to forget to do other, important things. I won’t eat anything until well after my typical lunch time, and I’ll be shocked if I don’t end up waiting to shower and get dressed until after the work day is done. It’s also easy to get distracted and work less when you’re in such a relaxed setting
Having a separate workspace means you can create a physical distinction between your work life and your personal life. I’ve gone so far as to only do work on a desktop computer, rather than my laptop. That way, I have to physically be at my desk designated for work to get anything done. I’ve set it up to be an enjoyable space, with a nice big monitor and fun keyboard to type with. Those may seem like trivial elements, but if you have the space and budget to put into your home office, it’s worth making it a place where you actually want to spend time.
2. Eliminate distractions as much as possible
When choosing your work space, consider how many distractions it presents. If you live on a busy street, you might not want your desk to face a window that tempts you to go outside or people watch all day. The best space is one where you can shut a door and not be bothered. Of course, not everyone has this luxury, so a corner of a room where you can’t see or hear a TV or radio is best. If you know you’re likely to get distracted by things like Twitter or useless but extremely entertaining Buzzfeed quizzes, there are plenty of tools available to help combat these efficiency-zapping habits.
With limited distractions, you’ll be significantly more productive, which is just as good for your personal life as your work life. This allows you to get as much done as possible during your work day so it doesn’t start to spill over into your personal time. It can already be difficult to disconnect in a digital world. If you eliminate the need to work during your personal time, then you at least have the opportunity to disengage.
3. Set daily work hours
The most important thing you can do to maintain balance at home is to set work hours. There should be a start and end to your work day, just like there would be in a real office. At the end of the day, turn off the devices you use for work, leave your home office, and shut the door behind you (literally or figuratively, depending on if your workspace has one).
A big part of setting these hours is letting those you work with know what they are. For some folks, this is easier than others. If you work for a larger company, just set your work hours the same as their operating hours. You can also discuss with your boss what your hours might be, especially if you’re operating in a different time zone from the company HQ.
However, if you work for yourself, it’s up to you to be the boss and tell yourself what hours are needed and appropriate. Make sure clients know what those hours are, so they know when to anticipate responses from you. That way, if you end your day at 6 p.m. and they email you around 9 p.m., they’ll know not to expect an email back until the morning.
4. Recruit someone to hold you accountable
Make sure to have someone who helps you stick to your balance, whether that be a spouse, friend, or family member. Just like an exercise plan or monthly budget, maintaining balance between work and life takes discipline and consistency to be effective. Having an accountability partner can help quite a bit.
Tell your partner what your hours are. If you haven’t wrapped up the day when you’re supposed to, they can give you a gentle nudge at closing time. Not only is this helpful for you as an employee, boss, or business owner, but also as a partner and friend. It can be difficult to maintain relationships at any level if you’re constantly checking emails on a phone or chained to a desk past your cut-off time.
Having someone who cares about you enough to give you a firm but kind reminder to disengage and come back to the real world can be a valuable asset. After all, if you have a strong, healthy personal life, that will be reflected in the work you do in the long-run.
By Alyssa Huntley
Alyssa Huntley lives and works in Washington, D.C. She has written about a range of topics, from technology to real estate to women's issues. Find her on Twitter @alyssajhuntley or check out her website, www.alyssajhuntley.com.