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How to set work-life boundaries when you work from home

“Work-life balance” has been a buzzphrase for years. As a result, businesses often market themselves as fostering a sense of work-life balance. And it makes sense: A 2016 survey by Deloitte found that millennials valued this quality in employers more than any other job characteristic, including career progression.

Wanting work-life balance and finding it are two different things, however. Another recent survey found that 42 percent of employees felt the need to check email during vacation, and millennials were the most likely generation to sneak a peek at their inboxes. In the last year, most vacations got canceled due to the pandemic, and one survey indicated that many people felt they also put boundaries on hold as homes became offices.

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You can still set boundaries for yourself and your colleagues, even during these times. Consider these tips for working from home to help restore some balance in your life.

Have a dedicated office space

When you go into an office each day, you probably sit down at your desk (or stand, if you’re using a standing desk). This action signals the start of the workday. At home, anything can feel like a workspace, from a cluttered floor to even our beds. Working from anywhere — literally — may make you feel like you’re always on because no space is sacred. You also may get easily distracted if you’re trying to plow through a to-do list in a poorly lit space or one with the TV blaring. What’s more, working from your bed can reduce sleep quality (which in turn can decrease the quality of your work).

Experts say having a dedicated work area can increase productivity and make you feel prouder and more legitimate. Choose a well-lit area that’s as free of distractions as possible and isn’t a place you typically use for relaxation, like a bed or couch. Let those be spots you associate with chilling out. De-clutter and keep it clean — experts say a messy workspace stymies productivity.


Set your hours — and keep them

Email and messaging services like Microsoft Teams and Slack existed before 2020 sent many of us home to work. These communication methods made it easier to feel like we’re “always on.” Though working from home can help enhance work-life balance, it can also exacerbate the feeling that you’re never really “off.” Before the pandemic, 40 percent of remote workers said they felt high levels of stress, compared to just one-quarter of in-person employees, according to one report.

Nix this problem by establishing hours. Speak with your boss about expectations for work and hours. Ask what qualifies as an emergency that needs immediate attention, regardless of the time. Once you have a schedule set, ensure you stick to those hours. You can set your work hours in Google Calendar, and it will alert colleagues if they try to schedule a meeting outside of that time (this feature is especially helpful if you work with people in different time zones). Slack also has an option to “snooze” messages between certain times. Turn off notifications, and consider deleting the apps from your phone to remove the temptation to check.

Fake a commute

You may not really miss your commute — traffic and delayed buses and trains take away time you could spend doing something you love. However, one of the lesser-known working from home tips involves stimulating a commute. Why? Commuting to and from your job creates buffers between our office and home lives. Think about it: When you leave the office to drive home, it signals to your colleagues (and you) that you’re done for the day. That effect may get lost when your commute involves walking from your kitchen table to your couch.

Re-create the commuter experience. You don’t actually have to drive to the office. Instead, a simple walk or bike ride will do.


Get dressed

Work-from-home life has allowed us to adopt “mullet-style” fashion: a nice shirt and sweatpants. Loungewear may be comfortable, but experts say dressing for success sets the tone for the day. It also allows you to keep a sense of routine and normalcy and separates work from relaxation and exercise.

You don’t necessarily have to go completely all-out and dress to the nines. Consider taking baby steps, like swapping sweatpants for a nice pair of jeans. Instead of putting on a full face of makeup, try lip gloss and mascara. After work, go ahead and get back into comfortable clothes to signal it’s time to get into relaxation mode.

Working from home has its perks — no commute means more time to focus on things we enjoy. However, it’s hard to reap those benefits if you feel like you’re always on. There are many reasons why remote work may actually hinder work-life balance. We may feel like no place is off-limits for work — not even our beds — or constantly hear the hum of Slack notifications while we’re trying to binge-watch Netflix. Plenty of working from home tips can help you reclaim your personal life, though. If you’re stressed, try getting back into a routine by getting dressed, establishing hours and a workspace, and faking a commute.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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