Working From Home? 10 Things You Can Do to Keep Work and Home Separate

published Apr 21, 2015
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(Image credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion)

Recently, Adrienne wrote a post on 10 Things to Do in 10 Minutes Before Work to Make Coming Home Much Nicer. As someone who works from home, I know that it can often be difficult to draw the work/home line. So if you work from home, here are 10 things that you can do to clearly delineate your time.

During the work day:

1. Keep set hours. If you work at home, it can be all too easy to take after-hours phone calls, respond to emails, or sit down to tasks on your computer, but as much as you can, keep the lines of your work time distinct. The blurrier the time boundaries of your work day are, the blurrier the boundaries of your home time will be as well. To really recharge and feel comfortable at home, it’s important to try to separate the two.

2. Have a separate space. Even if I can be productive while working on the sofa, I find that my mental state after work is better when I keep “lounge” spaces for lounging and “work” spaces for working. If you have a large enough home, keep your work space in a separate room and close the door when the work day is over. Visually blocking the space off will help mentally block work off. If you have a smaller home and have to keep your work area visible, then take a few minutes to tidy and put your work things away (in folders, drawers, etc.) Getting the space ready for the next day and having a clear (or at least tidy) workspace will help you clear your mind of work for the day.

3. Keep tasks separate. One of the greatest temptations of working from home is taking the time to keep up with household tasks like laundry, dishwashing, and cleaning. It seems like a natural way to spend those few moments that you’re waiting on a conference call or taking a break. Some people can make this mixture work, but if you have a hard time drawing the work/home line, I would suggest resisting this temptation. It’s easy to get sucked into the home-task vortex, thereby neglecting your work duties, and it can disrupt your work mindset.

4. Treat your home like an office. Imagine that your home is an office building, and act accordingly. Take a lunch break like you would if you worked at an office. Take breaks on a schedule. Stay focused on work, and use your time at home to actually get things done. If you keep your home feeling professional during the day, refusing to indulge an overly informal mindset or any overly lazy behaviors, then your home will feel fundamentally different in the “off” hours, when you allow yourself to relax, get more comfortable, and let go of the work-like focus.

When work is finished:

1. Have a post-work treat ready. Whether it’s a glass of wine, a cookie, an episode of a TV show you love, or a cuddle session with your pet, reward yourself with something as soon as the work day is done. This will give you something to look forward to, and it can serve as a mental cue that the work day is complete.

3. Take a walk. When the work day is done, get out of the house! Just by taking a 10-minute stroll around the block, you can separate yourself from the space. Fresh air and sunshine will give you a mental break so that when you come back to your home, it will feel fresh.

4. Indulge your sense of smell. When the work day is done, light a scented candle or start cooking something that smells wonderful. Generally, I don’t associate my work life with amazing, rich smells, and by changing the sensory attributes of an environment, you can transform your experience of it entirely. Choose a relaxing scent like lavender if you need to unwind, or up your post-work energy with happy citrus scents.

5. Change into non-work clothes. Get comfy! Put on pajama bottoms, a loose T-shirt, your going-out clothes, whatever makes you feel like the “professional” version of you is behind you for the day. Obviously, this is contingent upon you actually putting on work clothes in the morning, and if you don’t already do this, it’s a practice I wholeheartedly recommend. You don’t have to go whole hog and don a suit or heels, but changing out of pajamas or your ratty at-home gear in the morning will go a long way to helping you mentally gear up for work.

6. Get social. When you work from home, you generally don’t see other people (unless you happen to work in cafés or other public spaces). When the work day is done, dedicate some time to hanging out with your kids, your significant other, or a friend. Get some human contact and go out for happy hour, take some family time at home, or talk to a friend on the phone. Surround yourself with the people you love, who generally aren’t around during your work time.

If you work from home, what are some ways that you keep the boundaries of work and home clear?