Setting boundaries when working from home

| June 21, 2016

Setting boundaries when working from home

Home working has much to recommend it. You can work (more or less) when you like, wear pyjamas all day, avoid the expensive and wearying hell that is commuting, avoid having to work with annoying colleagues… the list goes on.

However, there are a few downsides to working from home (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?). The most pressing of which is the fact that when your work takes place in your home, you may find it very difficult to ever switch off. Even on weekends, for example, you may find yourself back in your home office with work eating into your free time. There’s less of a psychological distance between work and home – so it’s very important that you set yourself some firm boundaries to keep the two healthily separate.

Create a physical boundary

If you have the space, have a separate area for your ‘office’. A separate room for preference – a separate building would be even better! If however, the only separate building possible is your garden shed, clearly you’re going to have to think of something else (although the huge rise in the building of garden studios means that quite a lot of people are now, for what it’s worth, working in a shed so maybe there’s something in it…). While you may start out working on the kitchen table, having to clear your work away every time you need to eat means a lot of hassle. There are ‘offices in a cupboard’ that you can buy, with a space for a computer terminal, a fold away desk and filing space. If you have one of these, don’t keep it in your bedroom, otherwise you’ll be worrying about work every time you’re trying to sleep.

Force yourself to take a day off work

Have a full day off from work every week. On this day, do not check your emails, return calls, look through your files or even enter your office.

Introduce breaks to your daily routine

Hellish, expensive and draining as it can be, the daily commute does serve a purpose in that it marks the transition between ‘home’ and ‘work’. When you work from home, you can recreate this same mind-set by taking a quick walk round the block, or even round the garden if you have one. When you come back to your desk, you’ll have (hopefully) moved from ‘home’ to ‘work’ mode. Make sure you take regular breaks from your desk – it’s just as important in a home office as it is in a commercial one.

Make others understand where your boundaries are

It’s important to also set boundaries for the other people in your home. Whether it’s your children, your partner or your friends, be sure they understand that when you’re working, you’re not to be disturbed other than for a dire emergency. Just because you’re at home, does not mean you’re always available for a chat or for last minute childcare. You have a living to earn – make sure people understand that.