How to Separate Work and Home When You Work From Home
While it comes with many benefits, working from home makes separating work and home life a challenge. But maintaining a distinction between the two may help your productivity and alleviate fatigue from juggling multiple things all the time, which may just improve your mental health. So how do you maintain work-life balance when your work and your home are so intertwined?
The key components of a stable work-life balance are routine, structure, and boundaries. The actions you take during your workday should all center around these factors. These factors will help train your brain to enter work mode when it’s time to get things done and turn off work mode when it’s time to enjoy your personal life.
Our six suggestions for building work-life balance will help you set the right boundaries to feel mentally healthier and happier throughout your workday.
1. Establish Office Hours
Separating your work and home life requires differentiating between work time and home time. Determine what your work hours should be, and stick to those hours each day. Communicate these hours to your family if needed, so they don’t serve as distractions during your workday. It may also be essential to set boundaries with your employer, so they understand not to assign you tasks outside of your work hours. Remember to enforce these boundaries; otherwise, they won’t have any meaning.
That doesn’t mean that a flexible schedule isn’t possible. Set the hours that work best for you, your work, and your family. But stick to them as much as possible.
2. Get Dressed
Were you excited to work from home because it meant you could work in your pajamas all day? Or maybe you live somewhere in between with a nice shirt and your favorite pajama pants. It turns out that this may not be ideal for productivity. Working while wearing pajamas or loungewear has been linked to lower motivation and even poor mental health.
There is something to be said about the routine of getting ready for work every day. For many of us the routine of getting ready and commuting to work helped us get in the right headspace to get your work done, and the commute home often gave you a set boundary to turn your focus on your home life (more on that below). The solution is simple: just get dressed in the morning. Wearing something that you’d wear to an office puts you in the right mindset for work, driving more efficiency throughout the day. And when work is over, changing into loungewear can help set that routine and boundary of switching off of work mode and pursuing other activities you enjoy.
3. Use Your Non-Commute to Your Advantage
All of that money and time you save on not commuting is a beautiful benefit of working from home. The key to setting work-life boundaries, though, is to avoid using that extra time for more work. Instead, spend your morning non-commute hours engaging in a morning routine that prepares you for the day (be sure to review our tips for building the perfect morning routine).
For your afternoon non-commute, try an activity that helps you disengage and relax from work, like reading or listening to music. Avoid starting on any household or family responsibilities directly after you complete work, as this doesn’t give you the chance to unwind and transition into a home life headspace.
4. Create a Physical Space for Work Only
You probably have heard this piece of advice before, but it’s worth repeating given how important it is. Devoting a designated space in your home for work only has a crucial effect on your brain: it motivates you to enter work mode when you’re in that space and home mode when you’re not. It also gives you a space to physically leave at the end of the day, helping your brain relax and enjoy the evening.
You may not have a spare room for a home office, but many spaces still offer options for squeezing in slim desks. See if you can fit a small desk in your entryway, in the corner of a room, or even try converting an unneeded closet into office space.
5. Include Timed Breaks
When you don’t have coworkers asking you to lunch or coffee, you may forget to take needed breaks during your workday. Breaks act as a reset function for your brain, and you should incorporate several into your day, including one for lunch. With shorter breaks, you can take a walk outside, stretch, or even do a few quick exercises to get your body moving.
Take your breaks at the same time each day, and time them to ensure you don’t get distracted. Routine is critical in training your brain when to enter and exit work mode.
6. Get Out of Your Home Every Day
Experiencing the same environment day after day leads to boredom, poor mental health, and less productivity. It’s essential that you leave your home at least once per day, even for a short period of time. Maybe you need to make a grocery store run, check the mail, or go on a walk. Even just a few minutes outside can still make a positive impact on your mood.
What do you do to maintain your work-life balance?