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How to Maintain Work-Life Balance When Working From Home

Working from home can be a dream. There’s no stressful commute, no forced small talk, and no real need to put on pants.

However, as someone who is currently working from home, I can admit that there are also some potential downsides. For one, it can be difficult to find the right balance between work life and home life when there’s no physical distinction between the two.

If you’re considering working from home or, if you already do work from home, let’s talk about how to find balance between your personal life and work life.

How to balance your work and life when you work from home

With a traditional job that requires you to be physically present in an office it can be easy to separate your work tasks from your personal life. When you gather your things and leave your office at the end of the day there’s a transition period from office to home. This allows you to feel like your workday is done.

When you work from home, these lines are blurred.

When you work from home your office might look a lot like your kitchen table and when the end of your workday rolls around it can sometimes be hard to close your computer.

Another challenge when you work from home is ignoring the chores. You might feel like you need to do the laundry, clean the dishes or wash the floors when you’re in such close proximity.

When you lack established boundaries between work and life, it can be difficult to focus on just one at a time.

How do you balance time between work and children?

If you’re trying to work from home with kids, this takes things to a whole new level of complicated. As someone who is currently working from home with two small children let me start by saying, it’s damn near impossible.

You can’t be a present parent and a focused professional at the same time (unless you want to employ an iPad as a full-time babysitter).

From my experience, there are two ways to work from home and maintain some semblance of balance when you have young kids:

  1. Work while they sleep. While your babies are soundly in their slumber you get to work before they wake up, when they nap, and then when they go down for the night. Of course, you can only do this if you’re working a job that allows you to choose your own hours and doesn’t require you to take phone calls or meetings during regular office hours. This is exhausting but doable.
  2. Find childcare. If you’re trying to work from home at a regular 9 to 5 that requires you to be available to take calls and join meetings (without a toddler screaming in the background), then you should look into childcare. Whether it’s your mom, a babysitter, a day home or a nanny, in order to get your work done you need some kid-free time to focus.

Tips for separating work tasks and everyday life tasks

When it comes to separating work tasks (taking meetings, responding to emails, writing reports) from more personal life tasks (laundry, dishes) there are some simple strategies that you can implement.

Put on pants

Yes, put on pants. They don’t have to be fancy but you should change out of your pajamas. Getting dressed helps you to mentally shift from sleepy, personal time to productive work time.

Set expectations with friends and family

It’s important to let people know that working from home is still real work. Working from home is not an invitation for them to stop in for a visit and it doesn’t mean you can run a few errands for them. You are working. Set expectations with family and friends about your work situation before things get out of control.

Set and stick to a schedule

If you have the option to work remotely with a more traditional 9-to-5 job, then you might not have much room to negotiate your schedule. However, it’s worth talking to your boss to see if you can establish a workday that better aligns with your family’s needs.

Maybe you can start earlier to ensure that you’re able to sign off in time for school pick-up. Or, perhaps you can condense your core work hours and then put in a few more after the kids go to bed.

You won’t know what’s possible unless you ask.

If your job allows you to set your hours, amazing! But when you have this kind of freedom it’s super important to set a strict work schedule to ensure you aren’t working on-and-off around the clock.

As a work from home mom, I’m lucky that I can choose my own hours. However, when I don’t give myself strict start and stop times (even if they’re broken up throughout the day and evening), I find that I’m constantly trying to juggle my work tasks and my mom tasks simultaneously, and this isn’t effective.

So, be strict with your schedule. When you’re at work, work. Sure, you can throw in the odd load of laundry when taking a break but otherwise, keep work and personal stuff separate.

Walk to and from work

Get dressed and go for a walk around the block before you start your workday and again when your day is done. This allows for a physical and mental shift to take place. It replaces the traditional commute to and from work and symbolizes the beginning and end of your workday.

I think this tip is especially important for parents because most of us need a minute to switch out of work mode and back into mommy mode. A quick walk will give you some space and time to reset.

Give yourself dedicated breaks

Within your schedule make sure you give yourself breaks and time for lunch. When you work from home it’s easy to just put your head down and keep going. There are no coworkers asking you out to lunch and there are no mandated breaks.

Working breaks into your schedule (and actually taking them) will help to give you balance in your day. Go for a quick walk to get some fresh air or spend some time making a healthy lunch in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Establish a workspace

Having a physically separate workspace can help to distinguish between work time and personal time. When your day is done, turn off your computer and close your office door. This will help you to resist the temptation to check your email or finish a few additional work tasks.

Methods of managing working time to maintain a healthy work-life Balance

Now that we’ve established some ways, both mental and physical, to separate work life from personal life, what can you do to be more mindful of your time and increase your productivity during your workday?

When you work from home there are a ton of distractions that aren’t present in a normal office environment — chores, your fridge, the t.v., and, of course, your kids (if they’re hanging around). When you work from home, no manager or supervisor is looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re being productive. It’s up to you to manage your time.

So, how can you increase your productivity during work time? Here are a few productivity tips that are sure to help.

Limit distractions

The first thing you can do is limit distractions. If you have an established office to work in, go inside and shut the door. This will help you to ignore the snacks in the fridge and any messes that need to be tended to.

If you are super distracted by social media or email reminders — disable or turn them off. Establish set times to check email and make a deal with yourself to only check social media when you’re on breaks.

Plan your day ahead of time

Don’t go into your workday without a plan. Spend a few minutes at the end of your workday and plan for the day ahead. What tasks do you want to accomplish, do you have any approaching deadlines or meetings?

Go into your workday with a plan so you don’t waste time trying to figure out what to do.

Delegate

It’s impossible to be productive and achieve work-life balance if you’re trying to do everything. So, delegate where you can.

When it comes to your work, don’t agree to take on more projects or tasks that you can reasonably handle. When it comes to life, outsource the things you don’t have time for (cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping), and don’t feel guilty about it.

The Future of Working from Home

Working from home can be amazing. With all of the technology available to support remote work and the growing desire to work from home, it seems that the future of work is home-based. Not to mention, with global pandemic scares, working from home might be a more attractive (and even mandated) option.

Remember, when it comes to finding a balance between work and life, it will look different for everyone. Try out some of these tips and see what works best for you. Also, if you are new to working from home, give yourself some time to find your groove. Finding your balance will take practice and discipline if you are going to stick to the boundaries that you create.

–By Jessica Martel