Working from home has been imposed on many of us at the moment. It can offer many advantages in everyday life, but when the limit between work life and personal life become unclear, establishing rules may become necessary.
When working at home, the limits between professional and private life may become unclear therefore making it hard switch off from work mode. Doctor Gail Kinman, a lecturer in Beldfordshire University, UK, where working from home is very popular, says: « Work can take over every aspect of life. Even if your working hours are the same, it is possible that your projects become an obsession.» Most of us don’t leave the office and turn our computers at the end of the day. « Our phones are at our side on the dinner table and can still ring whilst we cook or have diner as a family. It is a constant distraction and difficult to ignore. » It may come to affect your emotional state. « Guilt may ensue as we don’t feel we are giving it our all, both professionally and personally » Gail highlights.
All in a day’s work
Setting rules is always a sensible action, even if you are an adept of mixing your professional and personal life. It doesn’t matter what working hours you decide on, but try to get yourself into a routine. Fixed hours don’t sound compatible with the seemingly more flexible option of working from home, however a routine will allow that separation between professional and personal life.
When working from home, the sanctuary where you spend time with the family also becomes your office, so it may be a good idea to get into certain habits. « I heard of someone who would wear a funny coloured hat when working with family members around. It is a fun way of indicating to your children that you are working or that you are in “mummy” mode. » explains Gail. Having a specific work area is a less eccentric way of getting the same message across. Defining a small working area can do the trick, it doesn’t have to be a separate room. Ideally there would be a direct path from your couch to your office whilst avoiding your bed. If you chose to have a set work place you will then associate all your surroundings (wall colour, clock, …) with work. This makes you more productive and makes it easier to forget about your projects when you finish your day and leave that space. As soon as you set those rules, you will have to stick to them to make them work for you.
Whether you are an employee or a company director, you must make it clear to your professional contacts and colleagues that you are only available during certain times. It may be useful to switch off unwanted notification and texto alerts on your phone as they are a constant distraction. No matter how many hours you work you must create a « bridge » to transition from work to family, or vice-versa. Good things to do may include walking the dog or changing clothes for example
Doctor Kinman adds, « When working at home it is important to have some social contact other than short emails or messages. Try and call people regularly as it improves your professional relationship and you’ll feel much better. »
Tips and Tricks
Concentrate: Even if the person you are dealing with isn’t in the same room, stay focused on them. Don’t try to work and speak with them at the same time. By concentrating on them you will improve your relationship and your conversation will be all the more relevant.
Take breaks : Don’t be afraid to get up and move around, get some fresh air. Your ideas will be clearer once you come back.
Take some time to call your colleagues : Try and organise calls between your work colleagues. This will improve your mood by social interaction.
Define your priorities: Make a to-do list. Concentrate on three things at time, make sure you do them all and only then move to the next three.
The balance between professional and personal life will be different for every one of us. We are all different and therefore don’t be afraid to experiment different ways. Only by experimenting will you find the perfect approach for you. If it takes a sparkly hat for you to be the most efficient, go for it !
Based on an article from Simple Things Magazine.