There are a lot of tips going around regarding working from home, so I wanted to focus on best practices as they relate to setting boundaries when home life and work life become intertwined. Boundaries help our minds and bodies stay healthy and happy, so here are a few ideas to try out as you work remotely.
- Get dressed in the morning. It's tempting to stay in your pajamas or get around to brushing your hair later, but the way that we feel when we're dressed for business can be a significant self-signal and mood lifter. This isn't just about being prepared for video chat, but instead how we can draw certain lines for ourselves even in isolation. Putting on business attire can make things feel official in a surprising way.
- Create a work station. Some of us are lucky enough to have a home office, but many of us who don't normally work remotely are making do with our kitchen tables. That's totally okay as long as we give it an office feel. This can be as simple as setting your pens in a cup in front of your laptop, getting your mouse and mousepad oriented, or even putting up some folders or boxes around your setting so it feels like a cubicle (I know, who thought we'd ever long for cubicles!). Having the resources around you to do your work and maybe even a few niceties (a colorful stapler or some flowers) does wonders for creating a sense of place. If you're feeling really adventurous, feel free to microwave something weird so that your home can have that 'what did they just cook?!' smell that you love so much at the office!
- Get a good chair. I say getting a good chair is a boundary for a couple reasons. One, it's REALLY important to keep your body healthy and functional, and posture at work is major for that. Secondly, having a “work chair” helps you delineate in your mind when you're 'working' and gives things a more official feel. Here's the one I use from Amazon, it takes a little putting together, but is well worth it.
- Make an 'On Air' sign. Many of us are working from home with our partners or kids or if we're lucky, both! If you're like me you leave your earbuds in all day, and it can be hard for those around you to know when you're actually on a call. Rather than waiting for your kids to scream “ARE YOU ON A CALL?!” while you're on a call, grab a flash card or sheet of paper you can tape to something that says 'On Air' so those around you know when silence is appreciated.
- Create a messaging channel for banter. For the time being our “water cooler chats” have to be remote, but release and socializing is still an important part of the day. Working from home can feel very isolating, and so having a Slack or Microsoft Teams channel or even a WhatsApp or iMessage group for banter with colleagues can be a good release and way to connect with your teammates. Remember, you've just gone from seeing your work “family” 40 hours a week to 0, you may miss them just like you'd miss anyone else that's such a big piece of your life, and they're very likely feeling something similar.
- Have an official end to the day. When working from home it's especially important to sign off and refresh. Work is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you treat remote work as one long sprint you'll be completely exhausted long before it's over. It can be hard to end your day or create boundaries when there isn't a change of surroundings, but be sure to set a time after which you don't do anything for work besides truly urgent issues. Closing your laptop and 'shutting down' your office by putting your workspace away or vacating your new 'office chair' are a great way to separate yourself. I'd also recommend doing some day-ending exercises or stretches to let your body know you're shifting focus. A 5-minute meditation can also be great for creating this space.