I’VE BEEN WORKING FROM HOME since I graduated college, and I don’t think the responses from people who have just found out what I do for a living will ever change. Oh, wow, they want to work in their pyjamas, too; where do they sign up?
Look, as great as working from home is, it comes with pitfalls, just like working in any other environment. With Millennials working increasingly less traditional jobs, however, it is important that people new to the work-from-home game — whether they are just starting out or only considering abandoning the 9 to 5 — are equipped to deal with the challenges of the remote-working lifestyle.
The biggest challenge by far is how to manage your “me-time” when working from home. I know that sounds odd to those who haven’t made the leap yet, but anyone with more than six weeks of remote work under her belt understands exactly what I’m talking about.
In a traditional job, no matter whether you’re an office manager or an assembly line worker, you get up, go to work, and come home. Your life is clearly divided between work and home: you wear different clothes, see different people, and do different things.
This isn’t the case when you work from home, especially if you don’t have a dedicated office space. If your desk is in your living room, kitchen, or bedroom, or if it’s just wherever you happen to be at the time, you’re going to have a much more difficult time finding a work-life balance, simply because your mind and body won’t know the difference between the two. When the place you work is identical to the place you watch The Late Late Show, things can get a little bit awkward.
Here are three easy steps to help you manage your me-time when working from home.
1. Separate Work and Home However You Can.
If you have a home office, that’s great, but don’t skip this step just yet. Try to distinguish your home office from the rest of your house as much as you can. That might mean moving out the boxes of holiday decorations and the bags of thrift store donations, repainting, and putting a lock on the door. Your home office should be a unique — but not distracting — space, where you go to work and nothing else.
Don’t worry if all the bedrooms in your home are claimed by, you know, beds. You can still create simple barriers that will force your brain to recognize the difference between work and play, even when the space is the same.
Designate one space in your home to be your “office” during work hours, and only do business there. Keep that area as autonomous as possible by bringing food and beverages to it, so that you don’t have to raid the pantry and risk going into “off” mode during work hours. If you can, block it off with a panel screen, curtain, or other temporary wall — something you can take down or put away during your time off. Finally, buy a noise machine, or take some time this weekend to pick out a few Spotify playlists to listen to exclusively at work.
Now that you’ve set up your workspace, it’s time to…
2. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule.
You might work from your home, but you have to be off-work at some point. Decide what your work hours are and stick to them. Conduct business during business hours only.
That includes email. Checking your email excessively might sabotage your work productivity, but it could also disrupt your work-life balance, if you’re working from home. Even when you aren’t on your laptop, your phone is constantly alerting you to new emails from clients and co-workers. When those emails are important, you’ll probably be tempted to answer them right away. Don’t do it.
Instead, set your work hours, and make it a point not to check email outside of that time slot. Better yet, schedule two to four 15-minute breaks in your day for reading and responding to emails, and ignore your inbox entirely otherwise. Give business contacts an alternate number they can use in case of emergencies, and allow yourself to sit back and enjoy your hours and days off.
Speaking of which, you should also schedule your me-time. Want to take a day trip, have coffee with a friend, or enjoy a spa package? Schedule it two weeks in advance and stick to it. Promise yourself some me-time and deliver.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Mess Up.
This should go without saying, but we are human, and things happen. Some weeks might require you to work overtime, and others might have you in need of a much-deserved self-care day. Allow yourself permission to take a break from your well-planned schedule every once in a while. You deserve it.