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Setting Boundaries When Working from Home to Minimize Stress

Working long hours brings some a great sense of pride. Working from home makes it even easier, as we can use commute time and lunch hours to keep going. Evenings and weekends can provide uninterrupted time to concentrate. Some feel anxiety and internal pressure to overcome the stigma that you aren’t really working if you’re at home or to prove high productivity to supervisors through longer hours for the “privilege” to be at home. Research tells us this isn’t healthy on so many levels.

So, how can you create distance and resist that urge to go beyond the bell? Here are some suggestions for setting up boundaries between work life and personal life while working at home:

  • Set up a dedicated workspace. Go to that space at the start of your workday and leave at the end of it. If you use that space during personal time, close up notebooks, files, and email and remove physical “work” to a shelf so it doesn’t tempt you.
  • Consider shifting to different areas of your house to match different purposes: a quiet, secluded area for deep thinking, the patio for responding to emails, or more casual conversations. Create work-free zones that will allow you to relax. I expected my daughter to work at the desk in her bedroom, but she pointed out that if she did, her room would then be a source of stress rather than a sanctuary or retreat.
  • Create a mental distance between home and work. In addition to creating a different physical atmosphere, establish common quiet hours and break periods. When work is done, disconnect by reading a book, taking a walk, talking with family. These are all effective ways of dealing with anxiety as you strive to find the right work-life balance.
  • Continue your workday routines as much as possible. Get up about the same time, shower, dress, have breakfast, etc., and when it is time, begin your workday.
  • Continue your workday routines as much as possible. Get up about the same time, shower, dress, have breakfast, etc., and when it is time, begin your workday.
  • Use notifications and alarms. Turn off notifications at the end of your day. Turn on your alarm for breaks, lunch, and the end of the day. I use notifications to signal emails so that I can ignore the urge to check email when nothing new is there, allowing mind flow on other projects. Use profile status settings to indicate when you are busy or away. Consider adding your workday hours to your email signature.
  • Create transition rituals to transfer between home and work roles. In the time that may have been your commute, think about your plans for the workday before getting engaged, then plans for the home at the end of your day. Consider taking a walk around the block just before starting your workday and to end the workday to reset your mental frame.
  • Change your clothes. Dress for work, even if it is more casual, practice good hygiene, and be fresh to start the day. At the end of the workday, change your attire.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to. Find enjoyable distractions, hobbies, and pastimes to enjoy your off-hours. Engage in a project that provides some anxiety relief. Learn something new. Find something where you create flow and engagement.

It’s all about creating boundaries and order for yourself and others. Seek the positives and enjoy the benefits of being home during this period of time. Working at home is a big adjustment and has many challenges, so give yourself grace if it takes some time to find your groove.

References:

APA Foundation: Center for Workplace Mental Health. (2020). Working remotely during COVID-19: Your mental health and well-being. http://workplacementalhealth.org/Employer-Resources/Working-Remotely-During-COVID-19

Greenbaum, Z. (2020, March 20). American Psychological Association. Psychologists; advice for newly remote workers. https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/03/newly-remote-workers

Halinski, M., Duxbury, L. (2020). Workplace flexibility and its relationship with work-interferes-with-family. Personnel Review. 49 (1), p. 149-166.

Noguchi, Y. (2020, March 15). 8 tips to make working from home work for you. NPR Life Kit. https://www.npr.org/2020/03/15/815549926/8-tips-to-make-working-from-home-work-for-you

University of Florida Human Resources. (2020). Tips for employees working remotely. https://hr.ufl.edu/covid-19/tips-for-employees-working-remotely/

Vasel, K. (2020, March 13). How to work from home without losing your sanity. CNN Business. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/12/success/work-from-home-tips/index.html

 

Reviewed: Radunovich, H.L. (2020, April 8). University of Florida, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences.