- Mark Schreiber
The importance of setting boundaries when working from home.
Working remotely is common in today’s world, especially after the COVID pandemic. Remote work has been found to have a positive impact on business costs and employee wellness. It decreases business overheads and provides employees with more independence, as well as the space to take more initiative, with the luxury of being able to work from almost anywhere.
A key factor of working remotely is time efficiency - no longer having to transport and commutes, or a fixed 9 to 5. We can do more each day as we plan and manage our time and work tasks along with other parts of life which we enjoy.
The benefits and drawbacks of remote work.
Technology and the internet provide us with endless resources and connection, across locations and time zones. Fixed office hours seem to be falling away as more businesses are focusing on work productivity rather than maintaining a fixed work duration. This shift has resulted in work flexibility, and expanded the reach of so many businesses; however, working remotely has also shown to impact other important systems in our lives such as family, mental health and stress.
Not working from an office environment comes with challenges. With independence comes responsibility - it is now up to the employees to ensure to create their own work environment which will provide sufficient space, time and resources to support the necessary work requirements.
When we work at a business location we generally arrive and leave at particular working hours. Occasionally we may work late, however once we leave the office, our clients and meetings, we physically detach from our work role. This boundary allows us to be present in other parts of our life, and enjoy our time spent at home, with family and friends, embracing hobbies and socialising.
Having a home office may be convenient, however this can easily blur the boundaries between work and home life. If we are not able to develop structure and discipline then working remotely can go either way. Some people find it difficult to stop working when their office is at home. Every priority on the list becomes achievable “now” because work is constantly accessible. We may feel more productive because we feel like we can do more, however by blurring the boundaries we actually face a higher risk of burnout. In addition, working from home may create conflict with family and friends when there are no clear time frames and working areas put in place.
On the other side of the spectrum, some people require more direction and management, and feel overwhelmed and demotivated when they are not in a work environment. This can lead to procrastination, stress and worry. Employees no longer working with co-workers in their workspace has shown to be difficult for some, and found to be a risk for feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression. Working in a group space has shown to result in higher rates of relationship building, mental stimulation, team work and creative thinking. After all, we are social beings, and although there are online spaces where we can “co-work”, human interaction when working remotely is lacking. Co-working spaces have become popular in locations all around the globe where employees, entrepreneurs and businesses can rent a desk or room to conduct daily tasks and meetings among others also working remotely. These environments have shown to be successful, as people utilise such environments when travelling, and when working remotely, or not wanting to work from home.
So how do we maintain boundaries when working remotely?
Create a designated workspace
Create a work environment which you are able to separate from after you have finished your work for the day. Find a space where you feel most focused and comfortable. Ensure you have access to everything you need for the specific work you do. If you do choose to work from home ensure to create a separate office space, or even better, rent out a spot at a co-working space. The most important thing is to ensure to keep your work space separate to the rest of your home life, and kitted for everything you need.
Set and stick to a schedule
Schedule your day like you would if you were at the office. Make sure you build lunch and coffee breaks into your schedule, and plan to exercise after work, or fetch the kids during lunch, as you would have done before. When we do not have a routine and schedule, we can find ourselves either becoming distracted by things happening around us, or overwhelmed. Allow yourself to plan so you can then be calm and focused, thus getting more done.
Although you are working from home and could possibly get away with not wearing pants to your zoom meeting - true story -, or spending your day lying in bed doing your coding, it is vital to get dressed every morning. It is almost like a brain switch - when you get out of bed and get dressed you are already separating your work and home life. Having a shower and getting dressed allows you to feel more confident and professional, and will also help you keep a healthy mental state.
Re-create your commute
The perks of remote work is the less time wasted. Ensure to embrace the new free time you have gained and do a daily activity before work – take the kids to the park, go for a run, or read a chapter of your book with a hot cup of coffee. Embrace the free time you have gained, and be creative with it. Maybe start a new hobby, the best part is, this time is all yours to play with.
Distraction is a key challenge when working remotely. Working from home will associate the brain with the home environment and lifestyle. It is therefore important to maintain your boundaries for during your work time to ensure you do not become distracted. Allow family and friends sharing the space to know your schedule so they do not bother you during your work time. If there are key factors that distract you eliminate them so they no longer keep you out of focus. Some basic tips are to turn off the television, keep the kids and dogs out of your work space, and commit to not being available to answer the door during work hours.
Throughout the day - working from home or an office - we need to stop and take a break in order to maintain a healthy balanced states and have enough energy and focus for our work. Ensure to set break times. It is not uncommon to fall into an isolated rabbit hole when work gets on a roll. When we are not surrounded by colleagues and or in an office environment it is much easier to just carry on, not acknowledging time passing by. A great way to maintain healthy balance and breaks is to schedule it into your work day. Perhaps set a timer to tell you when to take a short walk outside, to grab a coffee, and eat lunch.
Take time off
Days off can often become a thing of the past when we work remotely as we start to move amongst our own work time. Although there are deadlines and we have things we need to achieve, it is imperative to take at least a whole day off. Our body and mind need to have a break so we can rest and reset. Make sure you plan your weeks and months in a way that allows for at least one full day of time off from work.
Set and stick to boundaries
This point cannot be emphasised enough - just because you are at home does not mean you are available. Boundaries are key to being able to successfully work remotely. Ensure you are clear with those around you regarding the times you should not be disturbed, maintain your self-control to not be distracted by things at home, and make sure you maintain a balance so you do not burn out.