This week I talk about working remotely, and what techniques I use to set boundaries between work and my personal life.
Originally posted on https://tiagojdf.com/
Like many of you, I am currently working from home. I've been doing it for more than a year, and one thing that I noticed while talking to my peers is that is has not been easy to keep a healthy work/life balance.
Working from home has its own challenges, for example, sometimes I feel guilty about my performance during the day. I feel that I am not as focused as I should be, that there are many distractions. Even though this would also happen in the office, since I'm at home, it feels that this is somehow my fault.
Due to that, it is not easy to split my work day from the rest of the day. I've found myself working late, or maybe even going back to work after my work hours. Before, I'd go to work and back, and no matter what, my work PC would stay in the office, forcing a clearer separation. To be able to recreate this separation while working from home, I have put into place several techniques. What works for me, might not work for you, but the issue that they try to tackle is an issue that I think we're all currently facing. That issue is creating boundaries. Boundaries for your work in both time and space.
One technique that I have put into place since day one, was creating a work routine. Like I mentioned before, when you work in an office, you go there, you work, and you come back. Your daily routine working from home should mimic that. For me, it goes something like this: Every morning I wake up, I get ready as if I had to go to the office, I put on work clothes. I take my breakfast, take the kid to school and when it is time to start working, I go into a separate room, close the door and start to work. Maybe 5 minutes later I will be interrupted by someone coming in or something else, but the fact that I do this going to work, closing the door behind me helps me create an artificial separation between my life and my work and sets me into a work mode.
In order to create this separation, I think it is important to create a dedicated workspace. This does not mean having a whole office for working, no. If you have that, that's great, but if you are like me, you just dedicate some space in a corner to set up a work desk. Maybe that space is even shared with others or is temporary. Either way, it is important that it is ready for work and nothing else and that that is your work place. You should not work from your bed, you should not work from your couch, you should only work there. You are not doing this for your employers, you are doing this for yourself, to create a physical boundary between your personal life and your work life.
So, back to my day, I keep working until lunch time. After that I go back to work and when it gets to the end of the day, I do a leave work routine. Once again, having this kind of routine is really important to create boundaries.
My leave work routine consists of turning off my work PC, taking it away from the desk and switching it with my personal laptop. I do this because I am trying to make it as hard as possible to go back to work. I have previously found myself several times working past my working hours or even working after dinner just o finish one last thing.
I think it is very important to create a boundary between your work and your personal life in all of your digital devices. If like me you have a company computer and your own, you can do like I do and just swap the PCs, or even put the company computer in a drawer. I used to do that, because I was working at night, after getting my kid to bed. If you don't have a company computer, you can still make it hard to work past work hours by having different user accounts in the same computer or logging out of your work email. Same applies to your cellphone. I turn on night mode; I disabled all notifications. I do all of that and I even went as far as uninstalling slack from the cellphone. If someone really needs to reach me after my work hours, they have my phone number.
After that, I go and do my come back home routine. Maybe that will be changing to cozier clothes, doing a bit of meditation or spend some time with my kid. The idea here is that I do something to create a separation from my previous mindset of working back to an at-home mindset.
I think it is also important to dedicate time to yourself and respect that time. You should create clear time boundaries between work and personal life. Something I didn't do before working remotely, but that I do nowadays, is putting my lunch break in my calendar. This way I am sure that I am taking my lunch break and that no one will put a last minute meeting when I was about to take it.
Similarly, I added to my calendar when my day is over. I am lucky to work at a very humane company, where I am allowed to finish early some days to pick up my kid from school. By adding that to my calendar I am sure that no one will put a meeting on those hours and that I can dedicate that time to the other things that matter to me, like my family and my own personal well-being. This not only helps me, but also signals to others that I am not available.
I hope this will help some of you, like it helped me during the last year and remember to respect your own time and your own personal well-being. Remember to create boundaries. Remember to leave work at the home office.
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Photo Home office by DavidMartynHunt. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.