Jane works from home but would really like to come into the office a few days a week. When she asked her boss if this could be arranged, Jane was told, No. We cut back on office space- no place for you. The boss seemed surprised that Jane would want to leave home- Aren’t you enjoying the work-life balance?
Not sure there’s much of a balance. Jane has a small space in her home designated as her office. Monday-Friday 9-5- she works there- or tries to… The room feels cramped and isolated- not at all comfortable- and there are distractions. Jane’s mother-in-law is living in the house and can be demanding. Neighbors rely on Jane to handle tasks when they’re not home (sign for a delivery, let the plumber in). Life spills over into work in a way that wouldn’t happen if Jane were at the office. She doesn’t end up working 9-5; due to these ‘life’ interruptions. Jane finds herself consistently behind in her work and often spends weekends and evenings at her desk. Again, life and work spilling into each other.
Creating a work-life balance and maintaining it requires both structure and discipline. Here’s how to get started:
1- SET BOUNDARIES– You’ll need to set boundaries with the people in your life. This means explaining to family members and neighbors that you are not to be disturbed during work hours. This can be tough (people are pushy!) but absolutely necessary. Try smiling brightly as you say, Sorry- would love to help you, but Monday at 10 I’m working. Let that be the end of the interaction- don’t allow for objections or more discussion.
2- CREATE A SCHEDULE AND ROUTINE– You’ll need a clear outline of what your work day should look like. This can (and should) be flexible- new tasks may take priority or your supervisor may change workload assignments. Be sure to allow for lunch and breaks, with specific times and locations. Meeting a friend for lunch can be a great way to clear your head away from home- but don’t let it sap your whole afternoon.
3- CONTACT THE OUTSIDE WORLD- Working at home can be isolating and lead to a lack of motivation. When setting your schedule, think about ways to connect to life outside your home. For example, you might arrange to chat with a friend on a break, take a short walk, listen to a short podcast or radio show. Even scheduling leisure activities- movie, dinner, weekend events- can make you feel more a part of the world outside your office/home.
Follow these guidelines to structure your workday at home and avoid the pitfalls Jane experienced. Instead of asking your boss to bring you back to the office, you’ll be enjoying your office at home- and your life- all balanced.