When you work from home the lines of work / life balance can become very blurred. I have worked from home for the past two decades and I can tell you I am no expert in keeping myself organized between work and enjoying life. Aside from our own issues surrounding our work at home schedule, others in our lives can often tend to forget we do have jobs just as they do.
Some of the issues I face working from home come from the needs of family, my demanding pets, delivery drivers, neighbors, and my own mental distractions which are numerous but mostly surrounding social media, and getting lost on the Interwebs.
Just as a train of thought begins to take shape into the reality of a blog post, or working with a client in my other at home occupation, something, or someone comes along and sidetracks my mind away from completing a work related task.
I am not sure who coined the phrase Work / Life balance but I would love to flip that to Life / Work balance because I for one certainly prefer to live life over work, and I work to live, not vice versa!
All of the above does not even get into the issues surrounding the need to be a self starter, self motivator, and the only one responsible for making sure the necessary things get accomplished. I am my own boss. I am not a very good one either.
Then we have that moment in the day when we think it is time to transition from work day to relaxing time. You know that time of the day normal people, with normal jobs return from their day at work to their home, their place of solace, solitude, where they can kick off their shoes and relax, and unwind.
For those of us who work from home most likely have had their shoes off all day. Sounds great to those who work in a "regular job" and I do not take for granted the upside of working from home. Trust me I would not want to punch a time clock, and most days I am grateful that I have the ability to work at home, in a relaxing environment. However that relaxing environment becomes an energy wasteland more often than not when you rarely leave it, and have so many interruptions that getting any real work done is nearly impossible. Then we have that lack of transition all together! There is no moment in time each day when you get to take that deep cleansing breath, and feel the release of stress as you leave the work place. The feeling of anxiety releasing as you walk out of work never comes because you never left work!
Everything around you melds into one heap of stuff, leaving you feeling like you will never escape the demands of everything upon you. Small things around your home remind you of a deadline you have looming over you, or a project you set aside and forgot about. You rush back to your office space to jot down a few thoughts, or complete a project, during your "off time". Or, on the flip-side, you just shove everything aside and give up.
Most of us who work from home love what we do, while others sometimes get forced into a work from home situation due to life circumstance, taking any work from home projects we can get our hands on. What I have discovered is it does not matter if you love what you do or not, working from home has it's own sort of abandonment feelings attached. We are separated from the "real world", we make few interpersonal connections with walking, breathing, human beings, and we become deeply isolated.
Granted we have social media, Facebook, and other ways to find friendships, but getting too attached to those methods of keeping in touch with people is not healthy either because it hinders one's efforts to make interpersonal connections in real life. One could argue that in this day and age social media connections are real life, I will argue based on two decades of working from home and having no real life interpersonal connections outside of my small family, it is not!
So just how does one create work / life balance and keep their emotional, social, and mental needs met?
The 5 Rules of Engagement:
1. Set boundaries for yourself and others - Set a schedule that works for you and your work, not that of others in your life. Stick to the schedule and be only as available as your friends or family are in their day to day work lives. Yes you have the ability to make a few extra calls to set appointments, or you can take a break in your day if something NEEDS to be done that no one else can do, but be selective, and let your loved ones know what your schedule is. We can not expect others to respect our boundaries if we have not laid them out before them.
2. Designate an area of your home that is for work ONLY. This is best done in a room with a door, if possible. I personally am moving my office from an open area to a spare bedroom in the back of the house. This way I can shut myself off from the distractions of everything else around me, from my pets, the television, noisy neighbors, and delivery people who seem to feel they can talk to me for a half hour at every stop! Somehow work from home people always become exposed as "available". The door on your work space also offers the ability to SHUT THE DOOR when your work day is over, closing yourself off from those reminders of things to get done. Once we walk out of our home office, the day is done, let it BE done.
3. Get a hobby! Find something to do out in the world that immerses yourself around others. Get socially connected on a real life level. Find something specific for yourself that you enjoy. Join a book club, volunteer at your local pet shelter, get involved in life theatre, cooking classes, or take an art class with others. As long as it is not a solo event such as personal piano lessons you will meet new people who are interested in the same things you are.
4. Take Breaks. Just like anyone who works any job you deserve breaks in your work day. Allow yourself two or three breaks each day to do the things any other person in any other job would do. Eat, schedule appointments, play on your computer or phone, return a call to talk to a friend, or get outside and chat with the noisy neighbors. Yes, you won't have the work place break room to chat it up with co-workers, but this is not necessarily a bad thing! Using your break for yourself rather than water cooler talk can be a healthier situation. The important part of your break time is taking a break and allowing yourself to feel human for a brief period of time before getting back to work.
5. Stick to your schedule! Having set up boundaries and letting others know about them is only half the battle. You too must stick to your schedule and work it. When we let ourselves off the hook from our own work schedule we begin to let others take notice, then the break down of our boundaries begins! By sticking to your own rules, others are more likely to follow them. Staying on task is one of the most difficult things for all who are their own bosses and that is when the work / life balance break down ensues.
I would love to hear from other work at home people! Please feel free to leave your ideas, suggestions, or problems in the comments section below.