If there’s one good thing that came from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the rise of remote working all over the world. Working from home is great! It saves you a lot of time, money, and at the very least, small talk.
Even so, and after working from home for almost a year, I have learnt that it comes with some weaknesses. For example, when you work from home, you may experience loneliness, become anti-social, and the biggest of all – find difficulty in managing a work-life balance.
You see, when you work from home, ‘work’ stops being an actual excuse to the people around you. Friends will call you and want to pop in at random times of the day. Your family will expect you to help them do things. Your children will expect you to play with them – simply because they can see you.
In short, the people around you will probably not take your work as seriously as they should.
Because of this, you’ll need to learn how to set boundaries, and not just with others – with yourself too. Because when something clicks in the brain that your bed is only 15 steps away, you have to tell yourself no. You have to remind yourself to stick to your schedule.
Whether it be with your roommates, your friends, or family, if working from home is to work for you, you have to establish some sort of rules for those around you.
Here are 7 ways to set boundaries when you work from home:
1. Communicate your boundaries
You can’t expect people to obey your boundaries if you haven’t laid them down and spoken about them. It may be obvious to you but not to them. So, let your people know that you do not take visitors during your working hours. Tell them that you expect silence, and that they can’t just barge into your room as they would like to. No matter how harsh it seems, it’s better if you speak about it than to bottle up everything and slowly build resentment. Do not be shy to ask your roommate(s) not to have their friends over during working hours. In the end, you are the only one who will suffer from not communicating your boundaries.
In a blog on Hubspot, Pamela Bump says, “Almost all the colleagues that I spoke to explained that communication is key when working remotely with roommates and family.”
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2. Learn how to say no
I once read something life-changing about setting boundaries. You have to be comfortable with the backlash that will come with it. People won’t always be thrilled by the idea of you saying no, but that’s not your problem. As long as you are kind about it, allow them to be unhappy with your decision.
So the next time you receive calls from friends who want to play catch-up with you over working hours, simply let them know that it will not be possible and perhaps you can arrange another time. Try as best as you can to be assertive, leaving little room for negotiation.
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3. Have visual boundaries
Again, you can’t blame people for crossing your boundaries if you haven’t actually set them. Consider putting up a ‘Do not disturb’ or ‘Meeting in progress’ sign on your door. That way, anytime someone wants to come in and tell you about the latest gossip, they will be reminded that you are not available at that particular moment.
This works really well with kids. It might mean putting a colourful “STOP” sign on the door during conference calls and work periods. Set limits about interruptions and what is expected during working hours.
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4. Share your schedule
If everyone has access to your schedule, it’ll be much easier to explain to them that you are unavailable. It will also encourage them to wait a little longer for your next short break.
You can print out your schedule or even share an electronic copy.
Alternatively, you can communicate with your partner or roommate what your workday will look like each morning. This way, they’ll have a good sense of when your day starts, ends, and when you will be taking a break so you can plan accordingly. This would also be a good time to reaffirm your boundaries. Just remember to be kind when doing so.
5. Consider putting your phone on focus mode
You can set all the boundaries you want within the home, but if you don’t set boundaries for outsiders, you’re wasting your time.
This may be a little bit extreme, but it works perfectly! Turn off your phone notifications, and only allow phone calls from immediate family and colleagues.
You can set your phone such that it sends a message to anyone who tries to contact you within that period. You can also give them an alternative way to reach you if it’s urgent.
During your breaks, you’ll have the chance to check those notifications and respond to everything that needs your immediate attention.
6. Know when to make compromises
Setting boundaries can lead you to the other extreme where it’s ‘my way or the highway.’
This can lead to resentment and conflict with your loved ones, and I’d like to assume you’re not aiming for that.
Sometimes setting boundaries is also about making that extra room for negotiation and compromise. For example, you can let your people watch T.V while you’re working as long it is not a distraction.
If one roommate is sitting at the kitchen table and the rest of the house is empty, find a place to sit where you can take your meetings far away from them rather than interrupting their day.
7. Set bonding time with them
It’s easier to communicate when you have a healthy relationship with someone. One way to do this is to set aside time to bond with them. Whether it be watching a movie, listening to music together, having a conversation about something from the internet, or even doing a chore together, be sure to set time to bond with them daily.
This will also help you to clock out from your work and relax.
When your people can see that you actually care to spend time with them, it will definitely be easier to set boundaries when you work from home.
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