Work life: 3 boundaries to help improve productivity when you work from home
Being able to work at home is such a blessing. For the last five years I’ve had the joy and privilege to instruct the next generation of teachers often from the privacy of my home as a college professor. Never did I think I would be working solely from home, but what a great opportunity it has been.
When I first started working from home, my youngest son was only four years old. At that point, my fellas had NO idea what working from home meant. Making the adjustment from working outside the home to a stay-at-home mom and now a work-from-home mom has not been easy. Lines have been blurred, expectations were unclear, and I became one overworked woman.
Something had to change. I quickly learned to establish workplace boundaries within the walls of my home. These boundaries have helped me to be more productive and allow me to manage my roles within my home. Now, I don’t have all the answers, but these three continue to be my three go to boundaries for work and home.
Work from home boundary #1: Protect your workspace
To help me work from home, we had to be creative in my workspace. Our dining room suddenly became my workspace. This was an awkward transition. Our fellas were familiar with being able to walk this room whenever they wanted to play or talk to me. Now, this space was off limits. Right away, I had to establish rules and guidelines for coming into my workspace.
Whether you have a traditional office in your home or a makeshift office in the corner of your dining room, protect this workspace. Your workspace is not a place where you eat, you socialize, or you help the kids with homework. Nope, this space is strictly for your work. Instead, if you need to eat your lunch go to the table in the kitchen. When your children need assistance with their homework, go into the common area of your home. By protecting your workspace, you are conditioning your mind to work, and you are conditioning others to identify when you are working.
Lines are crossed, and expectations are unclear when we do everything in our workspace. Then, if you are anything like me, you get upset when others don’t respect your workspace. How you treat your workspace in your home is how you will condition others to respect the space. The set workspace also allows your brain to separate “work” from “home.” Working from every room in your home confuses your family when you are “available” and can infer with your ability to rest when you are no longer officially on the clock.
Work from home boundary #2: Protect your schedule
The work schedule I created when my fellas were younger was not the same work schedule I had when my husband was on deployment. In each season, I identified what mattered most, who needed me when, and what allowed me to meet the expectations of my job. Sometimes I had to work later evening hours or even on the weekend if that meant I was able to take the boys to basketball practice or wanted to get more involved in my community.
Whether you are an entrepreneur who can set your hours or you have a fixed 40-hour work schedule, create a work schedule and stick to it. Once you have a set schedule, be sure to communicate your hours with your spouse, family, and other important people in your life. Open communication about your schedule allows others to know how to respect your time. For example, I have two nights a week I usually work later. My family and friends know about my work hours, and it helps with preventing miscommunication. If someone texts me on my late night, then he/she is not offended if I don’t respond right away. This person understands I am working and unavailable. Protecting my schedule allows me space to work effectively and productively without feeling torn between my roles as a mom and a professional.
Boundary#3: Protect your rest
Working from home can be complicated when you see all the work you need to do for your profession along with all the chores that still need to be done. You can run your body ragged trying to do your job and trying to maintain your home simultaneously. Nothing gets complete. You have halfway started chores and work not completed to the best of your ability. You are stretching yourself to thin.
For some people, rest is not an issue when they work from home. They spend too much time resting and napping. Then there are people like me who put off rest because you are helping homework, cooking dinner, folding laundry, completing a project for work and taking phone calls with family. Oh, yes! Without those boundaries firmly in place, your productivity will suffer (plus, the bad attitude you picked up because you feel stretched too thin).
You will be the most productive if you protect your rest. Let your mind and your body rest from the expectations of your job and your home. Rest will be hard when you don’t protect your workspace and your schedule. Your brain will not be able to distinguish between when it is time to work and when it is time to recharge. Remember, your body needs rest.
Cheering you on,