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How to Separate Remote Work from Home Life

As we glide through this post-COVID world, many of us have found ourselves diving into the world of remote from home. Honestly, if I’m being real, with the office email typically on our smartphones, even when we’re going to the office, we’re taking work home with us. Whether you're working 9-5 for a big company or running your own fabulous online business from the comfort of your living room, there's a unique blend of freedom and challenge in our new normal where we’re always connected, and the demands for our attention are higher than ever. Here’s the scoop: mixing work and home life without a clear line can turn our cozy corners into a 24/7 office. Let's chat about how to keep our work zeal and home bliss blissfully separate, making sure our living room doesn’t permanently turn into the boardroom!

remote work from home sign and laptop

The Importance of Mastering the Balance of Remote Work from Home

Oh, the elusive work-life balance. I’m sure you hear about it all the time. People have been preaching about it for years, so you would think it’s the norm, but it’s not! However, striking that perfect harmony between our remote work from home and personal life isn’t just nice – it’s essential. Here’s why it’s a game-changer:

First up, a consistent, healthy routine is like that first sip of coffee in the morning – absolutely vital. It sets the tone for our day, ensuring we’re not working in our pajamas at 3 PM (tempting, I know!). This structure helps us carve out dedicated time for work, play, and those precious moments of relaxation.

Then, there’s the big B—burnout. Without clear boundaries, work can seep into every nook of our home life, leaving us feeling like we’re on a never-ending treadmill. Falling into burnout is super easy! By compartmentalizing our day, we’re not just preventing burnout; we’re sending it packing.

For more information, read our recent blog on noticing burn out signs and how to prevent them.

Next, we have productivity. Productivity blossoms when we know there’s a time to work and a time to unplug. Separating work and home life allows us to fully reset and let those juicy thoughts marinate in the back of our brains. Then, when we return to work, we are ready and eager to go rather than feeling the same old slog.

Lastly, let’s not forget motivation! Keeping work and personal life distinct makes our job feel more like a chosen pursuit and less like a never-ending chore, rekindling that spark that got us excited about our work in the first place.

Strategies for Separating Work and Personal Life

Now, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of separating work from home life. With a few clever strategies, we can create the balance we crave. Ready?

Step 1: Defining Work Times

One of the cornerstones to separating remote work from home life is defining those work hours. Whether you're clocking in for a company with set hours or juggling an online business amidst family life, sticking to specific work hours is your golden ticket to sanity.

In a fascinating article by Forbes a couple of years ago, they reported that:

"Early in November 2021, Portugal passed a law banning employers from contacting employees outside of work hours. This concept is nothing new, as France passed a similar law in 2017. Portugal’s legislation is just the latest attempt to encourage employees to disconnect at the end of the day in order to improve work-life balance."

These measures underline just how crucial it is to disconnect and recharge. However, what if you don’t have a company telling you when to work?

If your hours aren't pre-set, take the reins and establish a routine that suits your life. For example, if you are a mom who runs her online business from home, you may have to work around your kids’ schedules. If that means working 5 am to 6 am, taking 2 hours to get your kids to school, then coming back and working 8 to 3 before the kids get home, then do it. Whatever your schedule is, whether it is a 5-hour day or an 8-hour day, stick to it.

If you are bringing email (usually the culprit) home at night.  Try to only check that app during specific times instead of constantly picking up your phone to every ding and notification. Usually, if there is a true “work emergency” that you didn’t know was coming, someone will pick up the phone and call you. If you have a team, share with them the importance of disconnecting and ask everyone to call in an emergency instead of emailing. That way, you can rest assured the email is not critical, and you can check that app periodically instead of “always on call”.  

The key is consistency. By clearly stating your work hours to clients, family, and, most importantly, yourself, you're drawing a line in the sand. This isn't just about keeping others in the loop; it's about honoring your time and well-being, which brings us to step two.

Step 2: Setting Clear Boundaries

Setting boundaries isn't just a suggestion; it's a must for surviving and thriving in the remote work-from-home arena.

First, carve out a dedicated workspace that's just for work. I recommend a defined office space. If you can have a separate room, that would be great! If not, define a desk, computer, phone, or whatever you need for work that isn't doubling for personal use. Mixing the two is like inviting chaos to tea; it's bound to spill over.

Second, if someone, be it a boss, client, or well-meaning friend, tries to blur the lines between your work and personal time, gently but firmly remind them of your boundaries. Working outside your set hours is a slippery slope to feeling overwhelmed. 

The same is true for that coffee date with a friend.  If you can schedule those outside of work hours, you’ll be more present when you do see that friend and you’ll feel more relaxed without feeling like you’re skipping class. For me, I have times in the day, usually on Monday or Friday, that are blocked for those personal connections. We know personal connection is a cornerstone to happiness, so I block time to connect during the day. Whether it’s a lunch with a friend or an afternoon coffee, it’s accounted for in my week, so I don’t feel guilty for spending an hour off the clock.  

Step 3: Limiting Distractions

Navigating remote work from home means facing a parade of potential distractions: social media notifications, the allure of unfinished chores, adorable but demanding pets, or the sweet chaos of kids. Identifying your main distractions is step one.

Next, strategize to minimize their impact during work hours. Try setting specific times to check social media rather than allowing it to fragment your focus throughout the day. Communicate clear 'work mode' signals to family members, perhaps with a "Do Not Disturb" sign. Allocate chores to specific non-work times, and consider short, scheduled breaks to cuddle with pets or engage with your kids.

The goal? Create a bubble of concentration that allows you to work efficiently, maintaining the quality of your work and your sanity.

Step 4: Prioritizing Your Health

In the whirlwind of remote work from home, it's all too easy to let our well-being take a backseat. However, prioritizing our health—mental, physical, and emotional—is non-negotiable. So, we must carve out time for activities that nourish our well-being outside of work hours.

Whether it’s a morning meditation to set the tone for the day, a midday walk to clear your mind and get your body moving, or an evening journaling session to unwind and process the day's events, these practices are essential. They're not luxuries; they're the fuel that keeps us running.

Remember, you can't pour from an empty cup. So, schedule these activities with the same commitment as your work tasks because your health is the foundation of your productivity and happiness.

Step 5: Recognizing Negative Patterns

In the dance of remote work from home, it's crucial to shine a light on those sneaky habits that blur the lines between our professional and personal lives. Let’s start by tuning into our routines, pinpointing the moments when work seeps into our sacred home space.

cell phone free zone

Are they late-night email checks or the laptop that never seems to close? Recognizing these patterns is the first step toward change. If you notice a specific trigger, like the ding of a work notification pulling you away from family time, seek ways to minimize its impact. It may seem harmless, but the people around you notice when you pick up your phone.

I’m not saying don’t check work emails. What I am saying is to be intentional about it. Awareness is your ally here. By identifying and addressing these triggers, we can start to untangle the knots of work and home life, fostering a healthier balance. That could end up leading to turning off notifications post-work hours or designating a tech-free zone. It’s all about what works for you!

Step 6: End of Day Ritual

Ah, the end-of-day ritual, a magical moment that signals to our brains: "Work's over; let's switch gears!" When you're immersed in remote work from home, missing that physical act of leaving an office can leave you feeling perpetually 'on.'

That's where the power of a closing ritual comes into play. For instance, a friend of mine treats closing her laptop like closing the door on her workday. It's her non-negotiable signal that work time has ended and personal time has begun. This simple act is surprisingly effective in helping make that mental transition.

I am lucky enough to have a dedicated home office space and the clear sign to the end of the day is when the door is shut. In addition to that, I have a workday shutdown ritual that is tried and true for me.  I spend about 30-45 minutes at the end of the day on the following tasks. 

  1. I tie up any urgent must-do-today emails. 

  2. I review my tasks for the day and move any uncompleted tasks to the following day. 

  3. I review my calendar for my deep work capacity (some days are meeting heavy, and I can’t get a lot of other work done).

  4. I identify what my big 3 tasks/goals are for tomorrow and write them in my planner. 

These four steps help me feel like I’ve closed the loop on the day and that I’ve set myself up for success tomorrow. I can be proactive instead of reactive first thing in the morning. 

You can choose whatever ritual works for you; whether it's shutting down your computer, going through an end-of-day checklist like me, closing the door to a home office, a five-minute meditation, or even changing out of your work attire, crafting a ritual that resonates with you can be a game-changer in maintaining that precious work-life balance. I encourage you to experiment with what works for you.

end of day ritual - closing the laptop

Mastering the Harmony: Working to Separate Remote Work from Home Life

As we wrap up our journey through the intricacies of remote work from home, it's clear that the secret to thriving in this setup lies in our ability to delineate our professional and personal lives.

The essence of mastering remote work-life balance is not perfecting each day but nurturing a conscious awareness of where work ends and personal life begins. This balance is vital not just for our productivity but also for our overall well-being, ensuring we remain fulfilled, healthy, and joyful in every aspect of our lives.

Now, we turn the floor over to you, our dear readers. What rituals or strategies have you found effective in separating your remote work from your home life? How do you signal to yourself that the workday has ended? Sharing your experiences can inspire and uplift our community, creating a collective of wisdom that helps us all navigate the challenges of remote work with grace. Let's continue this conversation and grow together, one day, one ritual at a time.

To continue on this path of personal and professional growth, I invite you to sign up for our Happiness Newsletter. Twice a month, you'll receive a dose of inspiration, practical tips, and insights to help you nurture a happier work-life. Let these newsletters be your guide and companion in making each day at work more enjoyable and meaningful.

Don't wait for happiness to find you; take the initiative to create it. Sign up now, and let's embark on this journey together, with a dose of happiness delivered right to your email.

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