Career Advice

Managing Boundaries When You Work From Home

posted on January 31, 2019 | by Sanhita Mukherjee

Managing Boundaries When You Work From Home

Is it me or does January give you a whole lot of ‘This-time-last-year’ thoughts? Well, this time last year, I’d be scrambling out of bed in the morning, rushing to get dressed for work while checking my phone for emails and notifications. I’d definitely not be lounging around the house in my pajamas at 11 am.

That’s because a few months back, I took a huge leap, quit my job and started writing on my own. While it has been a fantastic journey (especially the whole pajamas at 11 am thing), the transition has not been the easiest.

When your home is your office, and your bed is your work desk (let’s be honest – sometimes it totally is!), your work-life boundaries get pretty blurry. If you have recently taken the work-from-home leap yourself, or are considering it, these tips may just save you many moments of frustration.

Manage expectations of your time

While most people today understand that freelance careers are, well, careers, you might still have a few people in your circle who think that working from home is like being on a perpetual holiday.

You may experience this in the form of a friend who wants to meet for lunch and then gets upset when you say you cannot go. You may have people dropping by for unannounced visits. You may even have close friends or relatives being surprised at your undone chores, even though you’ve ‘been at home all day’.

Tell them politely, but clearly, what your job entails and why it is important for you to maintain a schedule. Explain what a typical workday looks like for you, and tell them that you’re happy to hang out after hours. They might not even know what it is you do exactly (very common for digital careers!), so be prepared to answer some questions.

Respect your own timings

Sometimes, though, you may notice that it’s not other people who are interrupting your schedule – it’s you! With no one looking over your shoulders, it is all too easy to procrastinate, scroll through Instagram, and take hours over boring tasks. Before you know it, it’s evening – and instead of catching up with friends or spending time with your partner, you now have to tackle the tasks you’ve ignored all day.

Respecting your own timings is possibly the most important thing to do if you want to maintain any sort of work-life balance. Start your workday at a specific time daily. Set yourself a reasonable time for the not-so-fun tasks – and stick to it! Do take an hour for lunch, just like you would if you were working in an office. In this time, allow yourself to watch Netflix, chat with a friend or get your social media fix. But once that hour is over, get yourself back to that work desk.

Be realistic about your to-do list

Sometimes, over-planning your day can be as bad as not planning it out at all. If you pack in way too much in your schedule, no matter how efficiently you manage your time, you still won’t be done at the end of the day.

And when you’re working round the clock, it’s easy to feel like others are encroaching on your boundaries, even when they really are not. After all, it’s perfectly reasonable for your partner to want to talk about his day late in the evening, or for a friend to drop by. But if you’ve still got a lot on your plate, you may find yourself getting irritable and snappish at these ‘interruptions’.

Figure out which tasks are important as opposed to the ones that are urgent. Some might fall into both categories – and that’s your to-do list for the day. Next, schedule or tackle the tasks that fall into one of the two categories. The tasks that are neither urgent nor important can be left for another day. Automating recurring tasks can also go a long way in cutting down your workload.

Be flexible

This may seem contradictory to everything else – but avoid falling into a self-imposed rut! After all, if you are working for yourself, chances are that a rigid 9-to-5 schedule was not your thing anyway.

So don’t forget to enjoy the perks that come with working from home. When an old friend makes a flying visit to your town, don’t say no to a mid-afternoon catch up over coffee. When you’re stuck for creative ideas, go for a jog to clear your head. And if you feel like you’ve been working way too hard, definitely do take a break to recharge.

As long as these are not everyday occurrences, such one-off deviations to your schedule will not set you back!