Not so long ago, working from home was the privilege of a few. Only people from the artistic and creative occupations got to stay at home, instead of spending their day working in the office. But recent numbers show that more people than ever are now making good use of tech advancements and their employers’ increasing open-mindedness to work from home. According to Global Work Place Analytics, 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the US workforce) now work from home at least half the time.
That’s a whole lot of people, and most of them struggle with one very important question: How do you stop working? When working away from home, the answer is simple: once you leave the office, at least some of the work comes to a halt. Then, the only thing you need to remember is muting your phone, not checking your emails, and never answer texts – and you’ll be fine. But when you’re working from home, your office, and all those uncompleted tasks, are very hard to resist. And as everybody knows, all work and no play makes Daniel a dull girl.
So here are a few things that help me keep a reasonable work-life balance:
Make the transition
Most people have to commute to work in roads are full of edgy drivers, most of who are also on their way to the office. Not an ideal situation, but it does enable them to switch to “work mode”. All you need to do, then, is to “fake a commute” and create small habits that symbolize the start of your work day – make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, read the emails that accumulated overnight, and plan your schedule for the day.
And more importantly, remember the commute home… don’t think of congested traffic, of course, but of a glass of good wine at the right moment, closing your laptop with a bang; a piece of cake while you’re sitting in the balcony. In other words, things that symbolize pleasure for you.
Set artificial constraints
The beginning may seem artificial and strained, but you have got to learn how to separate your work from your personal life. When you’re at work, you don’t do the laundry, you don’t shop online – you’re working! But there are two things you wait for, like every other office worker in the world: lunch hour, which you won’t be eating by your computer; and your standard checkout time. When these come, my system is simple: I stop working and I get out of my little home office.
The next thing to remember is making sure your office doesn’t take over your home. Don’t use other rooms for work on a regular basis. If you have a favorite chair where you sit and read or watch television, don’t use it for working. Because, believe me, after a while, you won’t feel that chair is a relaxing spot at all.
Make your schedule your boss
When I tell people I work from home, the first thing they usually say is: you probably take an afternoon nap. Well, sometimes I do, but only after I’ve completed all my tasks for that day. Because working from home doesn’t mean time off, and I can’t open my day with a margarita – as much as I sometimes want to. Working from home means you’re your own boss, and knowing what exactly you need to do. Most times, by the way, that to-do list is longer than the allotted time I set myself for work.
So I start my working week writing down the bigger tasks I have to complete that week. I then break them down to smaller tasks and divide them logically throughout the week, while remembering that not all days are created equal. We all have our stronger days, when you push forward with zeal, and our weaker days, when everything moves at a snail’s pace. So customize your to-do list to your internal rhythm.
Give yourself a day off
Full-time employees have days off, and you’re not exempt from them either. We all have to schedule some days off to recharge. I give myself one day off each month, and the only rule I have is this: Get out of the house! I can read a book in a coffee shop, go to an exhibit I’ve wanted to check out, go to the market or a matinee, meeting friends. In short, I can do anything I want – except turning on that laptop.