Faith Wood knows how to resolve conflict. Her years in front-line law enforcement taught her how to effectively de-escalate any situation to a successful conclusion. Faith will use her knowledge of conflict management to guide you through the often stressful experiences you may encounter in your personal or professional life. Her Conflict Coach column appears every two weeks.
Question: When working from home became a thing last year, I was excited. It seemed so refreshing not to deal with traffic congestion, professional attire and crowded office spaces.
However, with pandemic restrictions continuing more than a year later, the allure has waned. I feel like the lines between home and work have become less clear, and it’s starting to take a toll.
How does one become more efficient with a work-from-home situation and avoid unnecessary stress and potential burnout?
Answer: I’ve been working from home for years – well before restrictions mandated. And it took a bit of planning to figure out how to keep work and personal separate. If there’s one disadvantage to working from home, it would be that it’s harder to separate your work life and your personal life since both often co-exist in the same space.
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Here are six key ideas for establishing clearer boundaries between work and home:
Designate a space in your home for office work
It can be quite tempting to work from the kitchen island or at your dining room table. And in busy households, juggling the kids, the new puppy, and the laundry can make putting a laptop in the common area seem like a good idea.
Don’t do it!
Designating a relatively quiet and specific space in your home can be the biggest differentiator in being able to walk back and forth between work and home life. Get a desk and put it in a space that’s protected from family members – including the new puppy.
Set work hours and stick to them
Although your hours may be flexible, it’s still a good idea to set your hours and stick to them as much as possible.
When you’ve worked those hours in the day, then you’re done your workday. It’s now time to put work away until the next day.
Because you work from home, it can be very tempting to work long hours, but don’t get stuck in this rut on a regular basis.
Treat your work hours seriously
When you set your own hours, sometimes your family and friends may not understand that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re available.
For example, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically the backup sitter if your sister’s school has an outbreak and the kids need to stay home. It can also be tempting to meet with a friend for coffee but if that turns into a two-hour visit, that’s two hours gone during your workday. Instead, meet with friends outside of your set work hours.
Also, be sure you’re not running errands during your work hours for your spouse. And don’t spend your time doing laundry and the dishes when you should be working.
Furthermore, if you have young children, make sure they attend daycare during your work hours since it’s next to impossible to get much work done when they also need your attention.
Because no one is watching you, it’s also easy to waste time checking Facebook and email messages. Be sure to limit your time with these activities.
Plan and schedule family and personal time
In the previous two points, we discussed planning and setting your work hours. However, remember to plan and schedule the rest of your life, too.
Be sure to slot family game nights and exercise sessions into your schedule. Write them down or put them in your phone’s calendar and be sure to follow through with them.
Plan rest periods during your workday
If you really like the work you do from home, it probably doesn’t even feel like work. However, it’s still important to give your body and brain a rest by taking breaks.
You may need to set a timer to remind you every two hours to get up and do something else. A good break may be running on the treadmill or getting some fresh air and sunshine.
Don’t skip meals
This seems like common sense but it’s easy to skip meals when you’re alone at home. After all, a large component of meals is socialization and there’s no one to socialize with when you’re by yourself. There’s also no food service like you find in many worksites, so you have to prepare your food at home.
By ensuring you eat healthy meals and snacks throughout the day, you’re ensuring your body gets the right nutrients and energy it needs.
By putting a little thoughtful planning into things, you’ll find that working from home can be a lot more conflict-free.
Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. For interview requests, click here.
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