By Angela Darchuk
In many peoples’ eyes, working from home is the greatest thing ever. It can be a wonderful opportunity to be around for our families, save on commuting time, and maybe even help with our sanity. Believe it or not, you may actually get more work done from home than working in a typical office. But, working from home has its draw backs too.
Almost four years ago, I started my journey of being a virtual employee. I left a state job to help build a small company. I was very excited about being able to get more laundry done, dishes cleaned, and even take my kids to school on a daily basis, which I felt was a good opportunity to be around for my kids as they entered the teenage years. Little did I know that there were drawbacks working from home.
After I started this new journey, I quickly realized I needed to create boundaries for myself to separate work from home. This proved difficult when work and home were in the same place. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may help you in your work from home situation:
1. Create a separate space
Creating a space that was just for work encouraged me (and my mess) to stay in one place of the house. For those who think working from the kitchen table is a great place to work, you may be wrong. This creates a larger mess—adding to your typical family mess—and more work, as you have to move your piles from one table to another while trying to get dinner on the table.
I was lucky enough to be able to set up an office in my house, but not all of us are so lucky. Try just having a desk, chair, and small file cabinet. This will help keep all your work supplies in one “work” location, and help you keep the rest of your house as your “home” space.
2. Set a work schedule with your supervisor
It’s important to work out a schedule with your supervisor—preferably in writing— that says you will start and end work at a certain time each day. Remember, this includes lunch and break time (but more on this later). By setting your schedule, you make sure there are no additional expectations of when you should be answering emails, taking phone calls, or producing material just because your office is 20 feet away.
3. Make sure you take breaks and lunches
Did you know that in California, if you are an hourly employee, you are required to take a minimum of a 30-minute lunch and two 10-minute breaks if you work eight hours? It may be state law, but it’s important to take regular breaks when working from home. Get away from your desk; go outside for a small walk, play with your animals, or just get up and move (preferably not to do housework!) And don’t take your phone with you.
I find that getting away from my computer and phone for this break time makes you a better employee. You become less resentful of the pressures of work when you have gotten a little fresh air.
4. Don’t answer work emails or phone calls off hours
While this is easier said than done, you should make a conscious effort to not work weekends unless already previously planned. Even though answering questions over the weekend may sound like it’s not a big deal, we all know this leads us to thinking about work—answering one question can turn into two or three hours of work.
Try to remember that your kids and family can see you are working and can start to get resentful of you working all time. So that intention of being around for your kids can turn out to back fire if you’re not careful about how you manage your time.
5. Take your vacation time
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you don’t need a break to get away. Whether it’s paid or unpaid, make a point to put vacation time on the schedule. And remember, a working vacation doesn’t count. While it’s great to be able to work from anywhere, you’re still working. Leave the computer at home and put your ‘out of office’ message on your email.
While implementing these five things into your life may be difficult at first, it’s important to strive for them. Even after four years working from home, I still have issues with work boundaries, mainly because helping to build a business is different than the typical 8 to 5, Monday through Friday job. But for your own sanity, if you do these five things, you and your family will be happier and you will be a better employee.
About the Author: Angela has a background in book-keeping and office management. She worked for several small businesses in the Sacramento area before taking a job with the State of California. She worked for Dept. of Child Support, EDD, and the State Treasurer’s office before making the jump back to private sector where she feels more at home to voice her opinion and help grow a company. Angela is currently the Administrative Services Manager for KAI Partners. In her spare time Angela loves to read, dance, and go to Disneyland. When she goes to Disneyland, her favorite ride is It’s a Small World. She has been married for 17 years and has two boys, ages 18 and 13 (who hate It’s a Small World).
2 thoughts on “5 Tips to Separate Work and Home When You Work from Home”
SO many great tips. I hope someday to at least be able to telework a few days a week and it’s good to know the little nuances of home-work balance.
We’re glad it was helpful! Good luck on your teleworking journey!