5 Ways to Have a Life when Working from Home

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5 Ways to Have a Life when Working from Home

A while back, we wrote about 5 steps to working from home. Working from home can lead to greater productivity and focus with less stress and attention needed on long commutes, other angry commuters, and distracting co-workers. It can be cost-effective for companies: less time “stuck in traffic” and more on work, less physical space needed to be rented, and less transportation reimbursements. It can be cost-effective for employees: less money spent on incidentals like that eating out for mid-morning coffee or lunch, less need to purchase and dry clean work clothes, and less spent on gas money.

However, working from home isn’t always roses and butterflies. While some employers are hesitant about letting their employers work from home because they fear that they will “slack off,” the truth is, employees tend to overwork than underwork when working from home. Why?

Well, people are generally honest. True, some folks may have trouble staying on task and get easily distracted by the cute puppy or Matt Lauer. But for the most part, when given the opportunity to work from home, people tend to overwork for fear of criticism that they are just hanging out in their PJs all day, eating ice cream (although, there is nothing wrong with wearing your PJs when working from home…sometimes). It is easy to fall into a pattern where your work “day” bleeds into your personal life (or vice versa). At home, there isn’t that time of day when the custodial staff start to empty the garbage bins, letting you know it’s about time to turn off the computer. You have to shut your own computer off, and to throw your own garbage bins out. Freelancers and self-employed folks deal with the same issues.

It is therefore critical to find balance between your work life and personal life when working from home. It is important to make that separation, or you can find yourself doing more work than you bargained for (and getting mad about it), or getting so distracted by your personal life that you put your work aside (and getting in trouble for it). The key is to find balance by separating and dedicating time and space so that your work life and your personal life coexist harmoniously.

1. Separate your work space from your home office space.
These two spaces are not the same thing. Many people conduct their office work from the same desk and space as where they do their personal emailing and surfing on Amazon. This can be a slippery slope, however, if you build the bad habit of  surfing YouTube for hours when you should be finishing an expensive report or wordsmithing a presentation when you should be giving yourself 30 minutes to Skype with your sister.

Of course, space constrains is an issue if you don’t have enough physical space for two offices (most people don’t). But you can be creative with how you use different parts of your home. For example, if you have a home office that is separate from your living space, dedicate that space for work. When it comes time to relax and surf the web for a couple hours, take your computer to the dining room or kitchen nook – where life happens – and Google away.

2. Sign in, sign out.
While working from home means no one is necessarily watching you clock in and out, it helps if you to designate a regular time when you “sign on” and “sign off” for the day. This way, you hold yourself accountable to when you are present, and allow your colleagues to know when they can reach you. It will also force you to stop working at the end of the day and not work overtime when you don’t need to be.

Treat your home office like your work office. If you know you want to go to that 10AM yoga class, you can. Just schedule it as a meeting, but make sure you get back to work by 11:30 AM and make up that hour somewhere else.

3. Turn off the distractions.
YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix makes watching TV and movies so much easier…but they also create a distracting temptation. It can be so easy to simply click on that show while on your computer in your home office. Before you know it, 30 minutes have passed. If you really want – and can take – a 30-minute break, take your computer to your living space, watch your show, and go back to the office. Keep un-work distractions outside your work space.

On the other hand, keep your work distractions away from your living space. If you know you have to work late, stay late in your office, but avoid bringing your computer into where you eat and live and relax.

4. Get an office line.
It is a good idea to get a dedicated line just for work. Having a dedicated line also helps you to separate your work conversations. Besides, it isn’t always the greatest idea to give your private cell phone number out to everyone. When your day is over, you know you don’t have pick up the phone and instead, let it go to voicemail.

As many of us no longer have landlines, there are multiple options for getting a separate phone line. You can up your cell phone plan and add a family/friends plan for yourself. You can also get a separate number through services, such as Google talk or Talkatone.

5. Avoid the munchies and don’t clip your toenails.
If you think snacking in the office can get bad, snacking at home can be even worse, especially when the refrigerator is 10 feet away from you. Treat your meals as you would in the office, and avoid eating too often at your desk. If you wouldn’t take out a steak at the office, don’t do it at home. There is no reason to treat your office space as your dining table. Keep the spaces and the occasions separate.

Same thing goes for other things you wouldn’t do at the office: clip your toenails, darn your socks. Do these things during a break time and not in your office space. (Sneaking in a game of Hanging with Friends is forgivable).