More and more conscious workplaces are incorporating remote work into their cultures. But when we work from home, it can often be hard to see where the “workplace” ends and where home life begins. Keeping the distinction between work and home life is essential for keeping us productive — as well as for our own physical and mental health. So, how can we stop these lines from blurring and maintain a positive work-life balance?
1. Set (and stick to) working hours.
If you work from an office, you have a set number of hours to work in a day: a start time and a finish time. To work from home effectively, it is wise to stick to these rules at home, as well. Doing so will get you in a routine and help you work to a schedule better.
If you know your average workday is eight hours, then work eight hours. Set yourself a time to clock in and a time to clock out. Record these hours somewhere in a calendar. This tip also means taking a proper lunch break and designated breaks throughout the day.
Around midday gauge where you’re at with your work. Doing this will allow you to prioritise any important or time-sensitive tasks that need to be completed before you clock out for the day. If you must work extra hours, try doing so before the start of your workday, rather than at the end. Try to do this on a limited basis though, by planning your work carefully and pushing yourself to full potential during those set working hours.
2. Plan your spaces effectively.
Speaking from experience: if you don’t have a dedicated work space, your entire house will end up as a workspace.
Charmaine White of The White House Interiors says, “It’s good to establish clear boundaries between your work and home life,” going on to add that, “closing the door on your work life when the 9-5 day is done is crucial to fully enjoying your leisure space.” If we start letting the boundaries between work and personal space blur, this is when we end up never switching work-mode off, and when we lead ourselves to become stressed, burned out, and unproductive.
So, make sure you have clear boundaries on where your workspace is and where your personal space is — don’t bring work home and don’t take home to work. Set up a desk, make sure to get lockable filing cabinets, and get proper storage for any work materials. If your workspace is in the main room of your house, try getting screens to separate your working area from your living area physically.
3. Dress for work.
On the theme of separating work life from home life, dress for work, even when you’re working from home. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie or a full face of makeup, but you should get dressed. Getting dressed will help your mind associate your time with work, not leisure.
We’ve all been there, trying to work in our pyjamas — and we get barely anything done because our brain is associating our cozy clothing with sleep and relaxation. Getting dressed in the morning in something work-appropriate will help combat this. Similarly, getting changed into something a little more comfortable at the end of your workday will help you unwind and get you back into that relaxed, leisurely mindset.
4. Talk to people.
Working from home is a dream job for anyone who isn’t a huge people person, but don’t neglect your biological need for human interaction. Don’t isolate yourself. Leaving yourself isolated can lead to worse physical and mental health, which can, in turn, increase your stress levels, blood pressure, and inflammation in the body.
Have clients you work for? Make an effort to meet them in real life. Know of any other self-employed people in your area? Try and arrange co-working sessions somewhere local. Or, at the very least, try to have a conversation with someone during your breaks — even if it’s your local barista or the lady making your sandwich at the café.
Chris Smith is a writer and the owner of his own blog, Spend It Like Beckham. His area of expertise is primarily business and financial advice where lends his knowledge to small businesses, particularly those looking to transition on to digital, and startups looking to get off to the best start. Smith is a contributor for The Huffington Post, with his advice previously featured in both The Guardian and The Telegraph.