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Finding Work-Life Balance When Working from Home

Working from home can create new opportunities and challenges for work-life balance. For some, it's an opportunity to gain greater control over daily schedules, enjoying the flexibility to step away from work as needed and eliminating time lost to daily commutes. For others, the lines between the personal and professional can blend too much, increasing the risk for burnout.

Here are some strategies for setting firmer boundaries between personal and professional life:

Women taking notes while working on the computer.

Here are some strategies for setting firmer boundaries between personal and professional life:

  1. Standardize your morning start time.
    Set yourself up for success each morning. Rather than jumping straight into emails on your phone, give yourself a few minutes to get ready and mentally transition to your workday. This morning routine might include making coffee, eating breakfast, catching up on news, or exercising outside. Once it's time to sign in to your email or group chat, plan to be fully present for your coworkers and clients. Standardizing your start time also means coworkers won't be guessing if you're available or not. Knowing you log-on at 8:30 am each day, for example, helps their productivity, too.
  2. Schedule breaks.
    It can be hard to resist checking email or responding to work requests when the computer is nearby, but taking short mental breaks during the day is important. Without a designated lunch hour, the day can become one long fire drill or endless video conference call, and you can find yourself sitting for 8 or 10 hours straight. You may be getting more work done, but the overall quality of this work can diminish. Block time on your schedule for short breaks, just as you would in the office. Stand up from your desk, stretch, walk around the house, grab a bite to eat, and mentally reset. If possible, step outside for fresh air. Time spent in nature, even for a brief break, can boost productivity and creativity.
  3. Create a transition period at the end of the workday.
    When we work in an office building, we naturally have time to transition between our personal and professional lives as we commute home each day. We might listen to podcasts in the car, read the news on the subway, or hit the gym before heading home. This buffer zone helps us process the day and creates a "re-entry space" for us to transition into the evening with family and friends. When we work from home, however, we might close our laptop at the dining room table and walk a few hundred feet to the kitchen to start dinner. For some, such an abrupt transition can amplify feelings of burnout and make it more difficult to let go of the workday. Consider creating a modified version of your previous end-of-the-workday habits. Depending on your interests, this might be going for a jog through your neighborhood, listening to a podcast while taking a short walk, calling a friend, or turning on your favorite music.
  4. Talk to family or roommates about work-from-home boundaries.
    Work-life balance goes both ways. Just as responding to an email in the middle of dinner can interrupt your evening, personal distractions during the workday can have a similarly negative impact. If you share a home with family or roommates, talk about the importance of boundaries during the workday. This might include establishing ground rules for when it's okay to come into your office or flag you down in the kitchen and what is an appropriate noise level in shared living spaces. You may also wish to discuss expectations for household chores or errands during the day. For some, running a few errands midday may be a great mental recharge time between work calls; for others, this break may feel disruptive or simply impossible due to work demands. Setting expectations upfront can help minimize workday disruptions.

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