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Setting boundaries between home and office

Setting boundaries between home and office

Working from home has been the norm for many of you but for others it is a new experience and one that may well continue after this pandemic ceases and firms look for different ways of working.

One of the important things to establish with working from home is setting the boundaries between home and work life so that they do not merge into one. To do this requires communication between both you and your employer and you and other household members.

Working in an office environment gives you a structure to your day, you know what time to leave home for your commute to work, you know what time you need to be at work and officially what is the time you leave again for home. You may well have formed habits of when you like to take a break or have your lunch and some social interaction with your colleagues to break up the day.

At home, you need to think about how you are going to structure your day considering matters such as:

  1. How many hours in the day are you expected to work?
  2. When during the day will you work
  3. Factor in breaks
  4. Working around other family commitments
  5. Communication with other colleagues who are also distance working

If you are fortunate to have a separate room at home set up a your office then it will be much easier to set up your day and concentrate on your work but if you need to use a shared space such as working from the dining room table, then you need to think about how you can distinguish between home and work life.

The first thing to consider is expectations and to ensure both you and your employer are on the same wavelength as to when you are available for online meetings, telephone calls, doing your work and when it is reasonable for you to be “offline” to have a break or finish work for the day.

Keeping to the same times as you would if you were in the office would be a good place to start but if you have other commitments now such as childcare then it may work better for you to have either a later start or earlier finish or maybe a block of working starting early in the morning, a break for a few hours in the middle of the day and then another block of working later in the day. As long as both you and your employer are aware and agree to the arrangements, it will save a lot of stress and anxiety of not knowing when you can stop working. Many people who work from home end up working more hours than they should for this reason.

If other members of your household are also at home during the day it could be tempting to blur the boundaries between you doing household type chores or spending time with other family members and your work time. One way of setting those boundaries is for you to be dressed for work by which I mean not working in your pyjamas! I am not necessarily saying to don the full suit collar and tie but to wear clothes that you feel good in to help your mood. Then let others know that you are working between your chosen hours and so you need to be able to do so preferably without interruption!

Do not forget to keep in touch with other colleagues too. You may be working remotely but the sense of belonging to a team is especially important. Do not just rely on Zoom meetings but pick up the phone to have a chat with them too.

Factor in your breaks during the day, we all need to walk away at times to relax and switch off. Go and make a drink or have something to eat or a chat with someone at home or on the phone. You will feel more refreshed and ready to start again.

It is all about forming new habits and setting a structure to your day which works for you, your employer, and your family. If everyone knows what to expect there should be fewer problems about working hours, productivity expectations and fewer clashes between the use of shared spaces between work commitments and family.