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The constantly increasing number of opportunities to work from home is changing life for moms around the world. It has probably never been easier to earn an income without leaving the house. But as many of those work-at-home moms have discovered, it can be tricky to strike a happy balance and separate work from home.
Although an integrated approach can and does work for some people, there are benefits to separating those two aspects of life. For starters, a good work-home balance can help minimize distractions and lead to greater productivity.
Other benefits include lower stress levels thanks to the boundary between set work hours and those responsibilities and the rest of the time you spend at home or elsewhere, the ability to spend more time focusing on your own health and well-being, and improved relationships with your family.
Let’s explore a few tried and trusted tips that can help you achieve a great balance of work and life at home.
1. Set Your Work Hours
Set your hours of work if you haven’t done so already. Yes, working from home offers much more flexibility than a regular office job does. But if you don’t establish boundaries, there’s a good chance that things will be too flexible. Work will creep into what should be other areas of your life, and you’ll never have the opportunity to take a real break from it.
When deciding on your work hours, you don’t need to limit yourself to the traditional 9 to 5 slot. Think about when you’re at your most productive work-wise and consider the needs of your children, as well as the schedules of your coworkers. Find the times that work best for you. If you prefer working at night, make sure you schedule some work time during the day, in case you need to meet with coworkers, clients, or management.
2. Create A Home Office
Create a home office or other dedicated workspace to help you separate your working life from your home life. Working in different parts of your home on different days can lead to misplaced documents, lost stationery, and general upheaval. You may also find it difficult to ‘step away from your desk’ mentally when you’re done with your work for the day.
You don’t need an entire room for a home office. You don’t even need a desk or an ergonomically designed office chair. You need what works for you, even if that means your workspace is limited to a cabinet and a few shelves for the clutter that most of us accumulate while working.
It’s also often helpful to find an away-from-home workspace, such as a local coffee shop, where you can spend a couple of hours working each week. Working from home can get lonely, and your office-away-from-home can help you deal with that. Consider asking the other work-at-home moms in your friend group to join you for a work morning at a coffee shop once a week or once a month.
3. Dress For Success
Have dedicated work clothes, even if they’re mostly comfortable t-shirts and loose-fitting yoga pants, and make sure you dress for work. Have a decent shirt or other top for video meetings. Don’t be tempted to spend the day in your sleepwear or your underwear—even if the kids aren’t going to be around for hours. Change into your “home clothes” when you’re done with your work for the day.
4. Keep Water Close
Keep a bottle of water or a water cooler in your workspace at home and get your work friends or the office gossip on Whatsapp, Slack, or another messenger. Doing this will help you remain in office mode when it's time to rehydrate, as it helps recreate one of the staple elements of office life—conversations around the water cooler or the coffee machine.
5. Separate Your Work Tools
If you use the same laptop or computer for work and home, you need to set up clear boundaries. Use different browsers and turn off email notifications and messenger apps when you’re not working.
Resist the temptation to quickly check in on a project, draw up an invoice or send an email after hours. Before you know it, a quick task sucks you into a work vortex that’s hard to disengage from. If you struggle with this, rather avoid spending time on your computer when you’re not working, and focus your energy elsewhere.
6. Break For Lunch
Schedule a daily lunch break and make sure you take it. You might find it too easy to skip lunch breaks, if not forget about them entirely, without the rhythm of office life and a group of coworkers to remind you that it’s time to refresh and refuel yourself.
7. Take Days Off
Take days off from work, and when you take them, take them seriously. That one thing you want to get done quickly on your day off can spiral quickly into several tasks that ultimately rob you of your break and make it more difficult to separate work from home in a work-from-home situation.
Your days off should be dedicated to self-care and to caring for your loved ones. Make sure you unplug from work by switching off your phone and not giving into that temptation to check your email inbox.
8. Find A Fake Commute
Create a fake home-work, work-home commute inside or outside your home. For mothers who work away from home, the daily commute can be a time in which they make the appropriate mental shift that further reinforces the boundary between work and home. Of course, working in an office or another space away from the home also helps.
Work-at-home moms don’t have to travel further than their desk, sofa, or home office. While that does mean more time for work, it also means there’s much less time to make that mental shift. The solution is to create a fake commute by going for a walk around the block or a quick cycle in a nearby park before and after work.
It’s About Balance
As almost every work-at-home mother knows, it’s not easy to balance everything that needs doing. Making your family, friends, bosses, clients, and coworkers happy can seem like a constant juggling act, and work can encroach on time that is better spent in other ways.
Use the tips above to achieve a greater balance in your life by separating work from home in your work-from-home situation.