5 Easy Hacks to Get Back the Work/Life Balance You Lost When You Started Working from Home

Put on some pants and get it together, buddy

by Maria Kubitz

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Let’s face it. Everyone dreams of working from home.

Think about it.

No more horrible commutes and endless traffic jams. No more constant interruptions of people coming to your desk needing something… or just wanting to get their daily chit chat in. No more being trapped in a noisy office with obnoxious people who make you want to jump out the nearest window.

The idea of working from home comes with the blissful allure of uninterrupted time to get real, productive shit done!

Instead of countless hours going to and from your office, your commute is the walk from your bedroom to wherever it is you sit down with your computer. Maybe your comfy couch? Heck, with the convenience of a portable laptop, why even get out of bed?

You no longer have to spend a small fortune on gas and work clothes. In fact, your “work” clothes generally consist of PJs or comfy sweats. You no longer have to take a day off when one of the kids is sick. You envision the freedom to get a load of laundry done at the same time you’re getting your job done.

Sounds perfect, right?

Except the reality of working from home is VERY different than what we imagine it to be.

Ask anyone who works from home, and they’ll likely tell you about all kinds of unexpected struggles they face.

The isolation of being alone day after day with only your pets or laptop to talk to.

Not remembering to shower for days because you no longer HAVE to — and then realizing that god-awful smell is coming from YOU. Gross.

The countless times 3:00 pm rolls around and you realize you were so busy working that you completely forgot to eat lunch. Or pee. Or move at all.

By far, the biggest, most common struggle remote workers face is that when you work from home, you work WAY more than you ever did in the office.

In an office, you have a clearly defined start and stop time. Sure, you may occasionally end up going in early or staying late to get an important project finished, but when you leave the office, you generally leave work behind.

Work life and home life have a very distinct boundary, separated by a commute.

When you work from home, you blur that boundary.

You find yourself starting earlier, ending later, and feeling like you’re constantly “on call” to get even more work done. Because, after all, when you’re at home, you’re really at work… right?

This problem is particularly bad when you have your work email or other communication apps (like Skype, What’s App, etc.) on your phone. In this case, work follows you everywhere you go.

The solution? Recreate the boundary between work and home by doing these five simple things:

1. Choose a dedicated space for where you “work” while at home.

It’s tempting to work anywhere when you’re at home. After all, that’s part of the allure of working from home. But when you don’t have a dedicated space, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

When work is done in any random space at home (a desk, the couch, the bed, the — gasp! — bathroom, etc.), it unconsciously reinforces the notion that your home is actually your work. And it makes it that much easier to justify working ALL THE TIME.

When you’re at your dedicated work space, you do your work. When you’re outside of that space, you stick to non-work activities. Got it?   

2. Create, communicate, and uphold your “office hours”.

Just like the office hours you kept when you were in the office, set the expectations of your team that you still have defined office hours while working from home.

Whatever scheduling system you use, make a clear distinction between your office hours (when you are available for addressing work issues) and when you are NOT available for work.

Then communicate it with the team. Let them know that outside of office hours, you will not be responding to requests or questions.

Do yourself a favor and follow through with this statement. DON’T respond to a request after hours unless it is a true emergency. Or else why bother saying it in the first place?

Remember the boy who cried, “Wolf!”?

3. Wrap up your day by documenting open loops.

An “open loop” just means something you were working on (or planning to work on) that didn’t get done or resolved.

Because they’re unresolved, your mind creates an anxiety around them that has a tendency to keep you focused on them (and thus, focused on work) during your personal time. And before you know it, you’re sitting down at your laptop to try to get them done — on your personal time.

The sure-fire way to put your anxious mind at ease about things that didn’t get done is to write down what they are, and what your next steps are going to be on your next business day.

4. When office hours are over, put your “office” away.

First, if you have a laptop, physically unplug it and put it away in your laptop bag so it is out of sight and out of mind.

What’s that you say? It’s too difficult? You have a desktop? Fine then. Power the damn thing down so that it is that much harder to just “sneak a peek” at what you’re missing. (And if you love work THAT much that you can’t bring yourself to do those things… then you probably shouldn’t be reading this article to begin with.)

Second, smart phones are… well… smart. They have the ability to easily turn on and off notifications for the apps on your phone.

So take the 5 seconds needed to turn off the notifications for all your work-related email and apps. It’s probably under your phone’s settings. Don’t know how? Google it.

That way, your phone won’t keep calling to you with its sexy siren song of beeps and chimes that remind you that those people at work love you SO much, they simply can’t live without you during your personal time. (They can.)

5. Create a ritual celebration to begin your personal time. And DO it. Every day. (That’s why they call it a ritual.)

We humans love rituals. They comfort us. And they often reinforce certain ideas.

By creating a simple ritual to be done at the end of each work day to celebrate the onset of your personal time, you reinforce the work/life balance and boundaries.

The ritual is 100% up to you. Something small, simple, and that you love to do.

Could be hugging your family members. Cuddling with your cat or playing with your dog. Having an after-work happy hour with friends. Maybe a workout at the gym or a yoga session.

Whatever it is, it is a signal that work is done…

…and YOU time has arrived.

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Maria Kubitz
With over twenty years in a successful marketing communications career at companies ranging from huge corporations like Hewlett-Packard to small startup environments with less than ten people, Maria has seen first-hand what works and what doesn't. In 2012, Maria launched a grief support website where her honest, heartfelt writing has helped ...read more

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1 comment

  1. Brandon @ TheYogaNomads
    says

    Really great advice!

    For me, the first hour of my day set the tone of the next 18 hours. If I go through my simply routine, my mind is primed to seize the day. If I lose self control, I’m doomed for a sub pair day.

    For anyone curious, my morning routine looks like this:

    Wake up
    0-5 minutes: Pranayama – alternate nostril breathing
    5-15: Seated meditation
    15-17: drink warm lemon water + 16oz water
    17-30: cook 3 eggs + black tea
    30-45: Eat 3 eggs/avocado + drink tea in the sunshine
    45-60: Prioritize my morning work session (top 3 tasks for that day)
    60+ I can look at my phone / computer (but not before)
    Brandon @ TheYogaNomads recently posted…14 Popular Yoga Teachers Reveal Their Secrets for Online MarketingMy Profile