3 Ways to Set Boundaries When Working From Home
by Brittany Jorel
A year ago
The number of people working from home was already increasing before COVID-19 hit. But the pandemic caused even more people to suddenly shift to a full-time home office. In the United States alone, over 4.7 million employees work from home at least half the time, and globally, 16% of companies operate exclusively remotely. Upwork estimates that by 2025, 36.2 million Americans (22% of the American workforce) will be working remotely.
It looks like productivity is better for many workers when working out of their home office. In addition, money and time are being saved thanks to the removal of the typical commute.
However, not all of the changes have been positive. A 2021 survey by Tork found that 40% of participants stated that they take few to no breaks during their workday despite workloads remaining the same or even increasing. The survey also found that women are twice as likely as men to skip their breaks, and when they do, they tend to use the time to do chores rather than rest or relax.
Listen, I understand that we all have our plates stacked with never-ending To-Do Lists. Add kids, spouses, and pets to the mix, and we often wonder how we're even finding time to sleep and brush our teeth. But you can't run on the hamster wheel forever, and it's generally sooner rather than later that we pay the price for neglecting self-care.
If you currently work from home (like I do), I'm here to tell you that boundaries are not only your friend – but an absolute must! Here are a few ways you can start to set up and implement some healthy boundaries for your Work From Home life:
- "Opening" and "Closing" Routines
Routines help to signal to your brain that a shift is coming. Start your day with an "opening" routine, as if you're opening up your office for the day. Maybe this includes a healthy breakfast, pouring a cup of coffee, brain-dumping in your journal, reviewing your calendar, turning off phone notifications, or whatever works and serves you best.
Wrap up your work day with a "closing" routine. To help you feel less stressed about tomorrow's workload, this might include reviewing your tasks for the next day and setting yourself up for success with checklists and reminders.
- Figure Out a Schedule!
If you can schedule every hour of your workday, that's great! But maybe, such a detailed schedule isn't entirely realistic and will cause you to feel anxious, pressured, and behind.
If you have kids and/or pets that can regularly disrupt your day and there is no way for someone else to handle these distractions while you work (I see you, busy mama), a strict schedule may not serve you well.
Instead, try adding some 'extra time' or white space in your calendar in case unexpected disruptions arise. When they do, move the task you intended on doing to a different time in your work day.
In addition, I want you to schedule your breaks and stick to them! To help with this, make your break time fun. I like to go for a daily walk break to Starbucks (or drive if it's raining outside). Not only do I get some fresh air, but I also reward myself with a little treat. Maybe Starbucks isn't your thing, and that's okay! Perhaps it's having a little dance party in the kitchen or walking to the park and reading a book. Do something for YOU each day!
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to set up your calendar for success. It's a lot of trial and error. Figure out what DOES work well for you, and make sure to schedule some non-negotiables (intentional self-care breaks)!
Check out my blog on "5 Strategies for Finding Me Time During the Daily Hustle" for more ideas!
- "Closed" Means "Closed."
If you've done your closing routine, stick to it. Remove ways for co-workers to contact you. This might feel strange and wrong initially, but people will understand! They'll realize that they cannot reach you and will get in the habit of contacting you only during working hours.
It is highly unlikely that the world will go up in flames if you actually turn off your work phone, don’t respond immediately to an email, close down the laptop, and just spend time with family, friends, nature, your bubble bath, or whatever else you need to enjoy a sustainable work-life balance.
You can try turning on your Out Of Office; that way, if someone tries to contact you outside of work hours, they know when they can expect to hear from you. If you manage a team, lead by example! Avoid reaching out or responding to team members in the evenings or on the weekend, and encourage your team members to implement work boundaries too.
This month, I challenge you to pick one or two self-care strategies and implement them every single work day. Give them a try and see which ones serve you best! Are there some you've been implementing that has been a life-saver for you? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!