Home Office: Create A Work-Life Divide

how to separate home office and home

Working from home can be a dream come true, but it's important to separate your work and home life to maintain a healthy work/life balance and avoid burnout. Here are some tips to help you achieve this:

- Create a dedicated workspace: Choose a separate room or area in your home for work. This helps minimise distractions and signal to your brain that it's time to focus.

- Set office hours: Stick to a schedule and communicate your work hours to your family or housemates. This will help you stay focused during work time and also ensure you get proper downtime.

- Get dressed for work: Avoid staying in your pyjamas or lounge clothes all day. Getting dressed for work can help trigger a mindset shift and improve productivity.

- Take breaks: Step away from your workspace during breaks. Avoid multitasking with household chores, and instead, use your break time to relax and recharge.

- Separate work and personal devices: Use separate phones and laptops for work and personal use. This will help you disconnect from work during your personal time.

- Socialise and get out of the house: Social interaction and a change of scenery are important for your well-being. Go out for lunch, meet friends, or plan recreational activities outside of work hours.

- Set boundaries: Communicate your needs for uninterrupted work time to your family or housemates. Establish rules and signals, such as closing the door or hanging a do not disturb sign when you need to focus.

Characteristics Values
Have a dedicated workspace A separate room or area for work
Decorate the workspace Use lighting, artwork, and other decor to create a productive headspace
Keep office hours Set strict working hours and stick to them
Avoid multitasking chores Focus on work agenda to avoid disrupting workflow
Take scheduled breaks Treat your home office like any other workplace
Reward yourself at the end of the day Turn off your workstation to avoid evening distractions
Separate work clothes from comfy clothes Dress for work to trigger a professional mindset
Get out of the house Go out for lunch or plan recreational activities after work

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Create a dedicated workspace

Creating a dedicated workspace is essential to achieving a healthy work-life balance when working from home. Here are some tips to help you set up your own dedicated workspace:

Choose a Suitable Location

If possible, select a spare room as your dedicated workspace to have privacy and minimise distractions. However, if you don't have a separate room, you can still create a dedicated workspace in a corner of your living room, bedroom, or even a closet! Consider choosing a space with access to natural light and privacy to make calls. Ensure your workstation is clean, organised, and free from clutter to promote a productive environment.

Invest in Comfortable Furniture

Ensure your dedicated workspace has comfortable furniture, especially if you'll be sitting for long periods. Invest in a good chair to support your back and prevent aches and pains. Alternatively, consider a standing desk or create a comfortable setup with blankets and pillows.

Lighting

Lighting plays a crucial role in creating an ideal dedicated workspace. Aim for natural lighting by positioning your workspace near a window to enhance your mood and boost energy levels. If natural light is unavailable, use desk lamps or wall-mounted lights to illuminate your space adequately.

Storage and Organisation

Create a well-organised workspace by incorporating storage solutions such as bins, shelves, or desk organisers to keep your supplies accessible yet out of your immediate workspace. This helps maintain a tidy and clutter-free environment, reducing distractions and improving productivity.

Decorate and Personalise

Add a personal touch to your dedicated workspace by decorating it with plants, artwork, or colours that spark creativity and inspire you. However, ensure that the decorations do not become a source of distraction. You can also include task lighting and tapestries with inspirational quotes to motivate and energise your workspace.

Establish Zones

Separate your dedicated workspace into zones to optimise your productivity and efficiency. Zone 1 should include items you need immediate access to, such as your laptop, mousepad, notebook, and pens. Zone 2 can be within arm's reach for items used throughout the day but less frequently. Zone 3 is for items used less than once a day, which can be placed near your workspace but may require you to get up to access them.

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Set 'office hours'

Setting office hours is crucial when working from home. It helps you separate your work and personal life, avoid burnout, and establish boundaries. Here are some tips to help you set office hours effectively:

Define your work hours

Decide on specific hours during which you will be "at work". Communicate these hours to your family, roommates, customers, and team. This will help set expectations and ensure that you have dedicated time for work without interruptions.

Stick to a schedule

Treat your home office like any other workplace. Maintain regular work hours and take breaks at set times. Avoid multitasking household chores during work hours. This will help you stay focused and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Create a routine

Establish a morning routine to get yourself ready for work. This can include getting dressed for work, having a designated workspace, and creating a "fake commute" by listening to a podcast or audiobook before starting work. This routine will help signal to your brain that it's time to enter the work zone.

Prioritize self-care

Working from home can blur the lines between work and personal time, leading to a sense of always being "on". It's important to set boundaries and prioritize self-care. Take breaks, step away from your workspace during non-work hours, and spend time with family and friends. This will help you recharge and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Be disciplined

Setting office hours is just the first step; sticking to them is equally important. Discipline yourself to start and end your work at the designated times. Avoid the temptation to check emails or respond to work messages outside of office hours. This will help you maintain boundaries and prevent burnout.

Involve your family

If you have a family, involve them in setting your office hours. Let them know your work schedule and explain the importance of uninterrupted work time. When your family feels included and prioritized, they will be more supportive of your work commitments.

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Avoid multitasking chores

Multitasking chores while working from home can be tempting, but it's important to avoid doing so to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Here are some tips to avoid multitasking chores:

Firstly, create a dedicated workspace in your home. Designate a specific room or area as your workspace and avoid working in spaces typically used for relaxation, such as the sofa or bed. If you don't have a separate room, you can visually divide your workspace using folding screens or cabinets to tuck away your work equipment when not in use. Keeping a tidy workspace and clearing it at the end of each day can also help create a sense of separation.

Secondly, establish clear boundaries between work and home life. Stick to set "office hours" and avoid working outside of those hours. During your designated work time, focus solely on your work tasks and avoid getting distracted by household chores. Communicate these boundaries to your family or housemates to ensure they respect your work time.

Additionally, create a daily schedule or routine to help separate your work and personal life. Plan uninterrupted work time to focus on priority tasks, and also schedule breaks and lunch into your day. Taking scheduled breaks can help you stay focused during work hours and prevent you from constantly multitasking.

Finally, be realistic about your expectations and adjust your workload if needed. Recognize that working from home, especially with other commitments such as children or roommates, can impact your productivity. Prioritize your tasks and be kind to yourself if you don't accomplish everything on your to-do list.

By following these tips, you can avoid the temptation of multitasking chores and maintain a healthier work-life balance.

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Take scheduled breaks

Taking scheduled breaks is an important part of maintaining a healthy work-life balance when working from home. It can help you stay focused and productive, prevent burnout, and ensure you're taking care of your mental and physical health. Here are some tips to make the most of your breaks:

Plan and Stick to a Schedule

It's important to schedule your breaks and stick to that schedule. This helps create a routine and ensures you're taking time off when you need it. With remote work, it's easy to get caught up in tasks and forget to take breaks, so having a set schedule can help you stay accountable.

Take Short, Frequent Breaks

Research suggests working for 75 to 90 minutes and then taking a 15-minute break is an effective approach. After 90 minutes, our brains tend to tire, and we may lose focus. Short, frequent breaks throughout the day can improve productivity and creativity. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, involves 25-minute work sessions followed by five-minute breaks.

Make Your Breaks Unplugged and Active

During your break, disconnect from work and avoid similar tasks. Step away from your devices, and engage in an activity that helps you relax and recharge. This could be a quick walk, some stretching, or a hobby you enjoy. If you work at a desk, consider doing something active during your break to get your blood flowing and feel energised.

Create a Relaxing Space

Design your break space to promote relaxation and productivity. Opt for soothing colours like soft blues and grey tones, which can have a calming effect and lower blood pressure. Bringing nature indoors by adding plants to your space can also enhance your environment.

Ask for What You Need

If you feel your breaks are too short or aren't coming at the right times, don't be afraid to speak up. Employers should accommodate their employees' needs, and open communication can help create a better break schedule that works for everyone.

By taking scheduled breaks, you can improve your productivity, prevent burnout, and maintain a healthier work-life balance, which is beneficial for both employees and employers.

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Separate work and home clothes

Separating your work and home clothes can be a great way to create a distinction between your professional and personal life, especially when working from home. Here are some tips and ideas to help you achieve this:

Organise Your Wardrobe

Consider organising your wardrobe into sections for work and home clothes. This can be as simple as allocating different drawers or sections of your closet for each category. For example, you might hang your work clothes and fold your casual clothes, or use dividers to separate the two. This system will make it easier to choose outfits for different occasions and help you maintain the separation.

Create Distinct Categories

You can further divide your wardrobe into distinct categories to ensure a clear separation between work and home attire. These categories could include:

  • Work clothes: This category includes outfits specifically designated for work. For instance, if you have a business casual dress code, blouses, dress pants, skirts, cardigans, and blazers might fall into this section.
  • Daily wear or casual clothes: This section can include outfits suitable for running errands, casual outings, or social events. These clothes are more relaxed than your work attire but still presentable for public settings.
  • Home clothes: This category is for the most comfortable and casual clothes that you wouldn't typically wear outside your home. Old t-shirts, sweatpants, leggings, and baggy sweaters might fall into this category.

Choose Comfortable Work-from-Home Outfits

If you're working from home, you might want to strike a balance between comfort and professionalism. Here are some tips:

  • Opt for relaxed fabrics like cotton or linen that offer both comfort and a polished look.
  • Invest in comfortable pants with elastic waistbands, such as drapey trousers or leggings, that feel like loungewear but look more put-together.
  • Choose super-comfy knits like cardigans or ribbed-knit tops that can elevate your look during video calls while keeping you cosy.
  • Consider wearing one-size-up jeans if your usual pairs feel too stiff or uncomfortable after prolonged periods at home.
  • For footwear, slides or indoor slippers can provide a sense of being "dressed" while still being casual enough for the home environment.

Maintain the Separation

To reinforce the separation between your work and home clothes:

  • Avoid wearing your work clothes outside of work hours. Change into your home clothes when you finish work for the day to signal the transition between your professional and personal time.
  • If you need to run a quick errand or step out briefly, try to avoid wearing your home clothes. Opt for your daily wear or casual clothes instead to maintain the distinction.
  • If you tend to change into your home clothes as soon as you arrive home from work, consider keeping a separate set of clothes specifically for this purpose. This way, you can extend the life of your work outfits and avoid staining or wearing them out prematurely.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively separate your work and home clothes, creating a clear boundary between your professional life and personal time, even when working from a home office.

Frequently asked questions

It is important to designate a room or area as your dedicated workspace. This helps to separate your work and living areas by distinguishing in your mind when to work and when to relax. If you don't have a spare room, you can visually divide your workspace, for example, by using a folding screen divider or keeping your computer inside a cabinet.

It is beneficial to keep "office hours" and stick to them. This will help you avoid answering phone calls or replying to emails during your personal time. It will also prevent you from multitasking chores during work hours.

It is important to set ground rules for your workspace. Communicate to your family or housemates how important it is that you are not disturbed. You can also create a system to indicate when you are unavailable, such as hanging something on the door handle or shutting the door.

It is important to separate your work and home life to maintain your mental health. This will help you to "switch off" after work and prevent work-related stress, anxiety or burnout. Having a schedule and a dedicated workspace can help create a sense of normality and improve your mental health.

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