Are you now a part of the remote work culture but struggling with how to set boundaries when working from home? As someone who has worked from home for the past 5 years, this is something I personally struggled with at the beginning. I was always being pulled in multiple directions. With this pressure, I struggled with focusing on the task at hand.
I discovered that a lot of people in my circle had misconceptions about what it means to work from home. Once I realized this, I knew my first step was to communicate what it really entailed. Then, I had to set boundaries. Hopefully my experience can help you avoid these remote work challenges!
Misconceptions about working from home
In our post-pandemic world, telecommuting is not as rare as it used to be. Prior to 2020, I experienced a lot of misunderstandings when it came to working from a remote office. While my bosses had trust issues, personal contacts thought I was “available” during the day. Looking back, it is no surprise I struggled with feelings of failure in almost all areas of my life at the time!
Pressure from work
From the work side of things, I had one boss who refused to even entertain the idea, even when he was trying to woo me back to the company. He wanted face-to-face time to get things done in a traditional manner. At the level I was at, he also did not want to set that example for other employees in the company, fearing they would follow suit. (Funny thing is, now that company is hybrid!)
I partnered with another company that was 100% work-from-home to start. Towards the end of our partnership, I was pressured to be in the office the majority of the time. This example felt like more of a control and accountability issue. They wanted to know what I was doing, where I was, and why I was not immediately responding to an email. While I was a 1099 contractor, they were treating me like a salaried employee. It probably comes as no surprise that this partnership did not last long.
I also have had experiences where clients who knew I worked from home reached out to me at odd hours. Early in the morning and late at night I would get phone calls, emails, and texts with a sense of urgency to them. Now, in a true emergency, I understand the outreach, but it felt like my home office never closed.
Friends and family
On the personal side, friends and family knew I was home during the day. I was being called upon for favors and social gatherings because of the flexibility in my schedule. As a people pleaser, I found it hard to say no! It was even more aggravating that my husband expected certain things to get done around the house! 🤯***Make sure you subscribe because we’ll have a full article about getting your spouse on board with your work-at-home gig!
Can you sense my frustrations as you read this? The work-life balance I hoped to achieve in freelancing, working from home, and setting my own schedule was coming back to bite me. I had to figure out some solutions ASAP!
In this post, I talked about the pros and cons of working at home. Achieving a work-life balance is a “pro”, but you might see this as a “con” since it does take some work on your part to create the balance that you are looking for!
Tips for setting boundaries
As you can see, I was struggling to keep everyone happy, including myself. Something had to be done. Here are the top 3 things that helped me.
- Communication — As with most conflicts, proper communication is KEY! Make sure to set expectations with all involved parties. What is expected from each person? What is your standard turnaround time? And what is your availability? Establish these parameters and communicate them.
- Set Office Hours — This is my answer to availability. Set office hours, and communicate those with partners, clients, AND personal contacts. Even if you want to keep your schedule flexible, having consistent work (and play) hours will help everyone, and allow you to set some boundaries. It also helps you mentally leave things at work, and step into your personal zone.
- Time block your calendar — Blocking time on my calendar helps me organize my day, and devote time appropriately. Block out time in your day for work tasks, personal tasks, and family tasks. Set a timer if you need help sticking to your time blocks. Am I within work hours? Then I am working. Is it time for family? Then I am mentally and physically focused on them. The simple task of blocking time out on my calendar helps me mentally be where I am supposed to be. Carrie talks about time blocking in this post about time management!
After setting boundaries
Previously, I was worrying about work when I was playing with my kids. Then when I was on a work call, I was distracted by tasks or chores at home I knew needed to be done. By doing the tips above, you also help yourself separate work and play, and not feel guilty about doing or not doing something.
These simple tips help me be in the moment and focus on the task at hand, mentally and physically. I know that I already have a time block to complete those nagging chores. It takes some practice and a lot of communication, but it is possible and will help you be more efficient!
Has this helped you? What strategy will you try to help set boundaries and improve your work-at-home and life balance?