If you work from home even part-time, you know how hard it can be without the proper setup and boundaries.
Working at the kitchen table or in a corner of the bedroom or family room over time will cause you to stop thinking of those spaces as “home” and more like “work.” And who wants work to interfere with a great dinner, spending time with the family, or getting enough rest?
- Back and shoulder pain from tables that are too high or chairs that are not meant for hours of sitting
- Eye strain and headaches from working in low-light environments
- Distraction from television and family conversation prolongs your worktime
The biggest problem, though, is that you soon find yourself working all the time as a lifestyle. You repeatedly check email, carry your laptop with you wherever you go, have halfhearted conversations with your family because you are distracted by work, and you go to bed and wake up thinking about work.
Are you living the lifestyle you want, or did you fall into an all-work lifestyle through circumstance and lack of planning?
I’ve worked from home for most of the last 10 years, both as an employee and as my own boss. I’ve made just about every mistake you can think of, including making work my lifestyle. I did not actively choose that lifestyle; I just fell into it for lack of anything else going on in my life at the moment. And when something great did come along, it was really hard to change my patterns.
If you are interested in creating a bigger boundary around working at home and having a personal life, here are the things I’ve learned (mostly the hard way):
- Dedicate a space in your home for work. Don’t work anywhere else, and don’t do anything personal in your workspace (anymore than you would do in a cubicle at a business, of course).
- Get a good chair. Really, don’t skimp on this. A proper chair will make you want to work at your desk, save your back and neck from pain, and further identify the space as “work” and not “home.”
- Take a shower, please. As tempting as it can be to work in your pj’s all day, taking a shower and getting dressed like a regular person will motivate you to act like a regular person. When a friend calls for lunch, you can pick up and go. When your spouse comes home in the evening, you look like the attractive person they married and not a slob. You will simply have more energy for your life if you dress for it.
- Set up regular working hours and stick to them. The benefit of working from home is that you often get to set your own hours. But watching television from 10-2 or taking a nap in the middle of the day just means you’ll have more work to do in the evening, which takes time away from your personal life. Enjoy the flexibility, but exercise restraint.
- Home is home and work is work. If possible, isolate your work area from your home area. You can do this by dedicating a separate room, adding a room divider/screen, or literally throwing in the towel*. Another option is to turn your computer off at the end of the workday so it isn’t as easy to “just check email for a second.” I also turn the ringer on my phone off at the end of the day so I won’t be tempted to answer.
*A friend of mine uses a large beach blanket to cover her work area when she’s done for the day.
How do you keep your work and personal areas separate, or do you? Let’s talk more about it in the comments.
To get links to all of this month’s decluttering articles, click here.
Betsy Talbot writes about carving the lifestyle you want out of life you already have. When she’s not writing, she’s paring down, saving up, and getting ready for a year of travel with her husband.