Welcome to Day 5 of the 5-day Work From Home Challenge!
Yesterday, it was all about taking breaks and what to do during your breaks. Today’s challenge is about an important boundary to enforce or you risk getting burnt out and driving yourself crazy from working from home.
It’s very easy to work an extra hour or two when you are working from home because we tell ourselves that it’s okay since we’re ‘just’ at home anyway. Personal and work-life start to blend in and everything starts to feel the same. Checking email and instant messages after dinner used to be only reserved for emergencies at work but when you work from home it can feel like the new norm.
You won’t realize it at first but it will eventually take a lot of your time and your coworkers will think it’s okay to message you anytime they want. They will continue to reach out to you even after office hours. As a result, your time with your family is shortened and you won’t notice it because tada! You’re working from home.
So let’s address with today’s challenge.
I’ve been working from home since 2012 and there were days where I worked for 12-14 hours without realizing it. By the end of the week, I was mentally drained and realized that I barely spent time with my daughter (she was 4 years old during that time). I had a boss who got so used to me replying even during the weekends that he would get pissed when I would miss tasks sent to me on a Saturday night.
It. Was. Toxic.
Here’s what I learned: do not let your work bleed to your home time. The opposite is also a good idea which is to not let your personal life bleed into work… It’s easy for this to happen especially if you work in your home’s common area. I used to work in the living room (bad idea!) where we have a TV. It was a constant battle between my daughter’s TV time and my focus (I didn’t have a noise-canceling headset and even if I did, it was difficult to focus when I could see the TV in my peripheral vision).
Working from home becomes even more challenging when you have kids and other people living with you. When they see you at home it’s easy for them to assume that you’re free to do things and not working. My childhood friend started working from home and since she was living with her parents, it started with innocent requests such as “Cecilia, can you fix the printer”, “send this photo to your aunt,”, and “teach me how to send a voice message,”. Eventually, it spiraled out of control where she ended up running errands and doing misc tasks around the home instead of working on the job. So what can you do about this?
It’s (All) About Boundaries
There are two types of boundaries: physical and expectations with people. Having a separate place to work is an example of a physical boundary. I graduated from the living room and now have an office space in our house. I share it with my husband since he works from home too.
Another form of boundary is telling the people you’re living with when you’re working and when you’re not working. My daughter knows that when I am in our home office, I am in work-mode and the only time she can disturb me is when she needs help and it cannot wait. She’s 12 now so she’s well-acquainted with our work from home life. Your kid might not be old enough to comprehend this but it won’t hurt to explain to your kids what it means when you say you are working from home. This is the same for your spouse or your parents (even siblings).
Define Your Working Hours
Flexibility is great especially when we need to make adjustments for unexpected things (emergencies, picking up someone, etc) but we highly encourage you to create a schedule and define what your working hours are.
At Asian Efficiency, we work flexible hours but there are meetings that we have to be present for. We have our Meeting Days every Wednesday (where all meetings happen in one day) and then our Daily Huddle (lasts for about 10 mins or less) at the same time every day. Even though we have flexible hours, we define our own working hours and the entire team knows this because we have it on a Confluence page (think of it as a wiki page for the team) that everyone has access to. So every team member knows when someone is typically working and when they’re unavailable.
Let’s get started with today’s challenge to create a simple boundary and schedule for yourself.
How To Define Your Working Hours
1. Decide when your work time is and when your home time is.
Once you have decided on it, stick to it and make sure you communicate this to the people who will be directly impacted by it. My family (who are not living with me) know that I work at night. They have now made it a habit to always text before they call me. The first text would usually be “Are you awake?” or “Call me when you can.” My mom (she’s in her 70s), bless her, took about 2 years before understanding my situation. I used DND but it would usually upset her and eventually we had it figured out between us on how we can communicate and be there for each other once the boundaries were established.
At Asian Efficiency, we are a global distributed team with three timezones and they can be tricky. Thus the need for transparency and communication for all team members to know when someone is available and unavailable. Even if you do not belong to a distributed team, it’s still a good practice for your team to know when your working times are. This is to avoid instances where they would assume you can work on stuff when in fact you are already off work.
When you set your working hours, it will also help you STOP working. By defining when your working hours are, you are also defining when you need to stop working and then to shift to your home life.
2. Set your working hours in your calendar.
Whether you use Google or Outlook calendar, this is a nifty way to communicate with your team if you are working or not. Let’s say you work different hours on a Monday and Friday, your team doesn’t need to memorize what these hours are. They just have to look at your schedule on the calendar. This will also remind you that it’s time to log off work.
The Trigger To End Your Work Day
When you set your working hours in your calendar, that’s one way to trigger the end of your workday. One benefit of working at the office is that when you see your coworkers leaving, it’s a cue for you to stop working as well and go home. When you work from home, you don’t have that so you need to create your own triggers to end your workday. Here are a few ideas:
1. Setup an automatic shutdown on your computer.
You can do this in both Windows and macOS. It will give you enough time (and also to override) to save, send, etc and then end your day. Only use this if you have a really hard time shutting down and generally can’t stop working!
2. Setup your robot vacuum to turn on at the end of your workday.
If you have the robot vacuum, like our Dojo member Carli, set it up to turn on at the end of your working day. This is a fun and subtle reminder to stop working.
3. Use a family member to bug you.
I wish I was kidding but hear me out. Whenever I need to wake up earlier than usual, I don’t use my alarm. I ask my daughter to wake me up. She doesn’t have a snooze button and she will not stop bugging you until you do what you asked her to do. The same is true when it’s time to end my work hours.
My husband bugs me to stop working. He hates it when I work long hours. Although our schedule is different, he’s a constant reminder that I need to end my work hours and rest. So if you have a kid that loves interrupting you at scheduled times and/or a partner to remind you, that’s a great free solution too!
1. Define your working hours and when your cutoff time is for work.
2. Set it in your calendar.
3. Try your best to stick to it tonight or if your day is not yet structured for it, start tomorrow.
4. Let us know in the comments when you’ve set your work hours.
And that ends our 5-Day Work From Home Challenge. To recap:
But wait, there’s more!
When we announced the challenge we mentioned that we will be giving away some awesome prizes to those who joined and participated. Make sure you check back again tomorrow for a surprise.
Do you want to learn more about working from home? Register here to join our FREE training. The space is limited so make sure you register today before it’s filled.
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