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Work / life balance when working from home

A few tips about working from home and self-management, from Jules.


Everyone’s heard of a ‘ work / life balance’ and I’m it’s sure it’s something many people endeavour to get right. But it might be wrongly assumed that creating that balance is easier if you work from home, either fully or partly. As someone who has spent several years commuting to an office, followed by many years working from home, I’m of the opinion that that’s not the case. In fact if we’re not careful, working from home can cause a work / life muddle.

ToysWorking from home creates an illusion that there are more hours in the day. There aren’t. Certainly the travelling time is eliminated, but unless you’re extremely strict about how you use your time each day, you can end up working much longer hours than you would commuting to an office.

And if you’re partly working from home and partly working out and about, juggling your time and trying to fit in a decent ‘life’ element can be even more challenging.

In order to make the most of working from home, allocate your time efficiently, and ensure that your home doesn’t become a permanent workspace, here are a few suggestions:

Diarise everything not just the work you do ‘outside’ of the home. By physically allocating time for every task, you’ll see how much of each day and week is available before adding further commitments. So if you have to  leave the house for meeting, don’t just diarise and allocate time for the meeting, but also for any writing, planning, preparation etc.

Allocate some time each day for surprise and urgent tasks that might crop up. This time should ideally be allocated first thing in the morning, then moved forwards throughout the day, hour by hour, if nothing crops up.

Keep a separate list of low priority tasks. If nothing urgent happens you’ll find you have a spare slot of time at the end of the day to work on these.

If you have to spend nights away from home, decide in liaison with your employer, how many nights a month you are prepared to be away, and stick to it. Once that number of nights has been allocated, you’re fully committed for the month. If you’re away too much, it will end up damaging your personal life, especially if when you are at home you’re too stressed to relax.

When you work from home, it can sometimes feel as though you need to ‘justify’ your time to your employer, and so people who work from home can get into the habbit of doing far more than they would if they only worked in the office. The problem with this is that your employers will likely assume that you’re only working your contracted hours. They’ll think you’re managing to get all that work done in an 8 hour day, when in fact you’re working for 10 or 12. And once you’ve started along that path it’s very difficult to break, because expectations have already been set. So stick to your contracted hours, and have a set time each day when you will shut your home office down and ‘leave for the night’.

Take regular breaks that you’ve scheduled into your day. If you’re working at home you won’t be stopping for chats with colleagues by the water cooler, you won’t be distracted by conversations about last night’s tele and you won’t have to pretend you care that Joan’s cat has just had kittens. While these are all positive things, the lack of distraction can mean you forget to take breaks.

Just because you’re at home, it doesn’t mean you’re suddenly available 24/7. Turn your work computer and phone off during evenings and weekends.

If you have to work for 5 hours on a Sunday to prepare something for Monday, then you should diarise time off in lieu during the week.

Keep a timesheet for a month and write down literally everything you do and how much time you spend working. You can then use this if you need to speak to your employer about the number of hours you’re working.

If you’ve got into the habbit of working too many hours and your home life is suffering, then speak to your employer about your workload. It’s far better to be open if you’re overworked, than to soldier on and end up having a breakdown or damaging your relationships.

One of the most difficult things is shutting off. It’s easy to turn your work phone off, but you need to turn your work brain off too. Don’t carry thoughts of work into your evenings and weekends. Find some way, that works for you, of clearing your head of work each evening, and especially on Friday nights. Shut all thoughts of work from your mind

If you spend a lot of your working life in your home, then it’s important to get out of the house at weekends.

Most of all, remember that work is *not* a lifestyle, it’s merely a means of achieving a lifestyle. You ‘life’ is what you do the rest of the time, so make it count.

[Jules]

Photo credit: partymonstrrr

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Jules in witchy hat
Jules

By job definition I’m a healthcare worker, but I also like to call myself a writer. I love words; I love reading them and I love writing them. Writing is a beautiful craft that one never stops learning, so I read a great deal too. I enjoy writing for LifeSIGNS and for myself, and I feel honoured and privileged to be writing for Kilobox amid such professional people.

About Jules

By job definition I'm a healthcare worker, but I also like to call myself a writer. I love words; I love reading them and I love writing them. Writing is a beautiful craft that one never stops learning, so I read a great deal too. I enjoy writing for LifeSIGNS and for myself, and I feel honoured and privileged to be writing for Kilobox amid such professional people.

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