2020 was a year. For many, work went from being in a designated office building to our homes. And so far, many companies are choosing to either stay in this mode or are switching to a more hybrid style of work. Either way, this leaves many Americans still working from their homes.
This work-from-home style has had many positives for the environment and businesses. Remote workers help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduced consumption of fossil fuels, improved air quality, reduced use of paper, and more according to an article from the . From the business side, states that remote workers see an increase in productivity due to fewer interruptions and more quiet work environments compared to their counterparts working in the office.
However, this productivity can come at a price. For many, commutes went from 30 minutes to 30 steps. That can make it easier to rationalize working later, longer hours, or cause you to have a harder time turning your brain off of work mode because it's always right there.
Here are four ways that can help you re-build your work-life balance when your work and life happen within the same four walls.
1. Set up your workspace.
Whether you have a desk with multiple monitors and other equipment or you just have a laptop, you need to have a separate space that is strictly dedicated to your work. You may not realize it, but you already do this in your home with other activities. In your kitchen, you cook. When you sit on the couch, your brain goes into relaxation mode because it knows that's where you read a book or watch TV. Keep your work in your designated office space. This will create a trigger for your brain to click into work mode when you enter that space. This will help you stay focused on your work tasks and prevent distractions. This also helps preserve your other spaces for their designated tasks.
I know it can be really tempting to work from your bed, but several scientists have found that working from your bed is counterproductive for both your work and your personal life. When you work from your bed, you bring your work to bed both literally and figuratively. Because you already recognize your bed as the place you sleep, you will not be as alert when you need to be productive. However, when you work from your bed, especially multiple days in a row, your brain starts making the transition to recognizing your bed as the place to work. So, when you lay down to go to sleep, your brain doesn't shut down as quickly because it's still thinking about work since that's what you're training it to do in this space. So, your sleep starts to suffer, which leads to you being even more tired, not wanting to get out of bed, and being even less productive at work. It's a never-ending cycle.
I highly encourage you to set up a designated workspace in your home. It can be a certain spot at your kitchen table, a corner desk in one of your rooms, or a separate room altogether. You need to have a designated work area. You can click to read an article from Healthline on the 6 reasons why you shouldn't work from your bed.
2. Set boundaries around the time you will work.
Repeat after me: BOUNDARIES ARE HEALTHY, not selfish. I know that can be hard to enact when you're a people-pleaser -- I prefer the term customer- or people-oriented, but semantics. However, we need to realize that time for ourselves is just as important as the time we spend serving others. As the saying goes, "you can't pour into others when your own cup is empty." You can't put energy and creativity into your work if you have none left.
Even if it's setting up miniature schedules and times to knock out action items or setting up a rotating schedule for taking a day off every month or so, breaks are beneficial to you and your work.
"Micro-breaks, lunchtime breaks and longer breaks, have all been shown to have a positive relationship with wellbeing and productivity. By taking regular breaks, you can boost your performance."
So, if not for yourself, then do it for your performance. Take a break.
If you need help setting up a micro-break, try out the . With the Pomodoro Technique, you set a timer to work for 25 minutes to complete a task or series of smaller tasks and then take a 5-minute break. You'll be amazed at how much work you can get done when you're trying to beat a timer, and it's a lot easier to plow through a longer project when you break it up into smaller chunks. Having that small break to look forward to can be a small reward that makes a significant difference in your attitude towards working. To quote Mary Poppins, "...and snap! The job's a game!"
The full technique suggests running four pomodoros and then taking a longer break. During these longer breaks, I suggest taking your lunch break. Yes, you need to take those too! If you're a compulsive worker like me and sometimes struggle to stay off your computer or phone, check out our blog on
Another thing that helps me with my time boundaries is routines, which is what our next tip is all about!
3. Create routines.
I know there are millions of resources about routines and why you should have them. I'm not sure if anyone else has ever looked at a routine from this angle, but for me, my morning and evening routines really help prevent me from working more than I should.
Last year, I was waking up early, so I'd go ahead and start working. This left my day being almost two hours longer than I was scheduled to be working. You would think that wouldn't be a bad thing because then I could just leave earlier, right? That's not usually how it works when you have meetings until the end of your scheduled workday, people sending you requests and text messages, and calling you because they expect you to be working. So, my days ended up dragging significantly and being much longer than they should have.
YouTuber Amy Landino is one of the biggest advocates for morning routines that "help you go after the life you want." In her book "Good Morning, Good Life," she helps you set up morning and evening routines that are designed to help you achieve your goals while still completing your normal workload and taking time to relax or do something you enjoy.
Having a routine that literally runs from the time that I wake up until I'm supposed to clock in for work and a second routine that runs almost an hour after I'm supposed to clock out until bedtime has really helped hold me accountable to not working as long and making my goals become a reality.
However, we have to be careful that we're balancing work and achieving our goals with finding time to do the things we love. Life is more than just working and grinding on a side hustle. So, make sure you're including time to do what makes you happy, which is what our next tip is all about.
4. Find outside interests and dedicate time to them.
Remember how I told you my routines are helping me achieve my goals while still finding time to do what I love all while working? I wouldn't be able to set those goals if I didn't have any interests outside of work. In 2020, I didn't invest my time in much outside of work. However, it wasn't until December when I finally took vacation that I started relaxing and reevaluating how I spent my time. I realized that, in the past year, I hadn't done one thing I wanted to do.
According to "if you put all of your energy, passion, and happiness into your job, you’re leaving yourself open to problems if things go wrong. By pursuing hobbies and interests outside work, you give yourself more opportunity to switch off from career worries and issues in the workplace."
Another bonus to investing in your interests outside of work, you can actually develop skills that can be applicable to your work life. One of the things that I have started investing time in is yoga and meditation. Thanks to those 20 minutes that I spend each morning stretching my muscles and engaging my mind, I've been able to bring a more peaceful mindset to my work. I now have new techniques to calm myself before I react to something negative that would have previously stressed me out.
Whether we enjoy our work or not, we need to realize we are working to live, not living to work. Just because we no longer have a commute and our offices are now in our homes, that doesn’t mean that our office hours are now 24/7. It’s not realistic, and it’s not healthy. If you need help setting up some of these boundaries, talk to your coworkers, your boss, or your family. All of them are invested in you and want to help you find the time for you to better yourself, so you can be better during your work hours.
For more lessons and tips on working from home, check out one of our two blogs below!