Are you ON or OFF?
Working from home can be great. You get to skip the commute. You don’t have to get dressed -- except for those Zoom chats and then you only have to be sure you have a shirt on. The refrigerator is close by and so is your bed.
But there are also challenges. You may have to be doing dual duty and minding your children who are now home instead of at school or in daycare. You have to turn on the AC or heat. You may have a pet that is begging for your attention. It could be more challenging to stay focused on work and not browse the internet or buy things online. And of course, you need a place to work, which might wind up being your kitchen table.
You may be one of those people who was initially excited about working from home and is now tired of it and ready to go back to the office. It’s interesting to note that research is showing that people working from home typically tend to work more than when they’re at the office. For some, this may be due to having fewer disruptions. However, I wonder if the primary reason is that people aren’t careful at setting work hours. If work normally starts for you when you get to the office, and if you don’t bring work home, then it’s clear when you’re “at work” or when you’re “at home.” But when you can roll out of bed and go to work, how do you manage that? When do you get to step away and be home again? Does your house feel like it’s transformed into work? Do you ever feel like you’re not “at work?”
When are you “on” and when are you “off”?
If you’re one of the people who is struggling to put boundaries around work, here are some things you might try:
Set specific work hours. Be clear at the beginning at each day when work starts, when you get lunch or other breaks, and when work ends. You might find it useful to hang up one of those “open” “closed” signs and flip it around to signal your work hours.
If you’re using a part of your home for work and other non-work activities, such as your kitchen table, make sure that when work is over, you put work things, such as a computer or notebooks, away and reclaim the table.
If you’re lucky enough to have a specific area that you can dedicate to work, you may find benefit to closing the door and avoiding that area during non-work hours.
Do the same thing you did when you went to the office. That is, get up, take your shower, get dressed, and instead of commuting to the office, walk around the block. When you get to your house and go to your work area, be at work. Do the same things when work is over: take another walk around the block and when you return to your house, do what you would normally do after work.
Create a ritual. Like the idea in #4, but simpler. Perhaps you just change your clothes to distinguish between being at work or at home. Maybe you just change your shirt or your shoes. Some people wear glasses at home and contact lenses at work.