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Boundaries: Work from home

Working from home always sounded great when you had to drag yourself to the office everyday but now that you have to work from home you find yourself feeling depressed, having trouble breaking up the day between work and personal time, difficulty getting into a productive mindset, or you might even be getting pressure to do more work by your peers since you no longer have a commute. It can be difficult to determine and maintain boundaries because when you work from home you are working in the space that you normally relax in. When the boundary between work and home gets blurred it isn’t surprising that it takes a toll on you.

You can feel like you are always at work or like you just can’t bring yourself to get into work. In our particular situation during shelter in place, this isn’t a typical work from home situation any longer and the lack of choice makes this even harder. While you don’t have the option to go into your office or work out in public at a coffee shop there are still some things you can do to create boundaries that can help you be both productive and relax at the appropriate times.

Talk to your supervisor

For starters not having a kids or a commute isn’t a reason to be forced to do extra work. You can be getting this pressure from your coworkers or your boss. You get paid to have a certain amount of productivity and unless your company formally reassesses your responsibilities your company shouldn’t expect else wise. I understand in a time when people are getting laid off or furloughed the pressure to give extra to stay employed can weigh heavy on your mind. If you are feeling this pressure please speak with your supervisor about clear expectations regarding your productivity.

Create a routine

Give yourself a work week Monday through Friday routine (if Monday through Friday is your work week) that includes scheduled breaks. A routine gives your internal clock something to grab on to. A routine also provides direction and structure. Having a routine is also nice since then when it is the weekend and you don’t follow the routine you feel like you can relax. Makes the weekend different and special so it won’t blur into the time you spend working.

An example:

6 AM Wake up

6 30 AM Breakfast

7 AM Change out of your sleepwear and wash up (doesn’t need to by fancy just a change of clothes to tell your brain and body that it is time to be productive)

8 AM set up computer and log into work

10 AM Go for a walk outside

12 PM Lunch

2 30 PM Get up and stretch or go for another walk

5 PM log out and put away the computer

Create stations/spaces

It creates a separation between work and play.

Create a work space

Create a space that is used specifically for work. When you sit yourself down in front of your computer/laptop, while in that chair, in that spot, you are ready to work. This is to train your brain and body that this area one dedicated to a particular type of productivity.

Create a leisure space

Just like your brain likes having a que that it is time to work your brain also likes a que that it is time to relax. In your leisure space you should make a point of not doing any work. This is where that puzzle your working on is. Where the kids play with their toys. Where you play your video games.

Connect with your working peers

Part of the what is hard about working from home if you are social individual is missing the sounds of people working around you and having a person to just comment to in reaction to what you are working on.

If you had a person at the office that was your office besty reach out and see if they might like to passively facetime, zoom, or duo with you while you both work. This isn’t like the normal video chats you do where you look at each other and talk the whole time but just to provide you both with companionship and a degree of normalcy and perhaps even accountability. You can respond to each other when something happens that gets reaction on your screen. You can have moments of water cooler talk. You can both hold each other accountable to eat lunch or get fresh air.

Clear Quit time

Give yourself a clear time that work is over.

When it hits 5 PM shut down your computer so you aren’t seeing the light of the screen out of the corner of your eyes. If you have a work computer that is separate from your personal computer put it away. Out of sight and out of mind. The act of putting it away can also be cathartic.

Step away from that work space you created till it is time to work again.

In conclusion

I understand that depending on your job and its parameters some of these suggestions will work better than others. Some of you will need to work odd hours that shift due to children or deadlines but I hope you can still create a boundary in space. Some of you will lack enough space to create a clear work station you can walk away from and I hope you will be able to adhere to a routine and/or physically put away the computer. In the middle of all of this I want to remind you that communication will remain important. Communication with your loved ones, your coworkers, and your bosses in regards to your needs as well as to remain connected and anchored.

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