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It's tough enough to create a healthy work-life balance when each has its own designated space, but what about when you work in your home (or live in your office, as it might feel sometimes)? You might think it's impossible to establish mental and physical boundaries between your work and your personal life, but a few tweaks to your routine can work miracles – and even when you can't completely compartmentalize your work and personal lives, you can still find healthier ways to integrate them. Here's how to get started.
Dress the Part
If you worked from an office, your morning routine would include getting dressed for the day. But when you work from home, it's easy to skip that step – and, in fact, it's tempting to just drag your laptop into bed with you and work from there, in your pajamas (at least, that's my personal experience...). But Business News Daily reported in a 2017 article that dressing for work helps to put you in a work mindset, which can boost productivity and prevent you from melding work time with personal time. Hello Fearless founder Sara Davidson told Business News Daily that when you work from home, it's best to treat your home like a legitimate work environment – and that means getting dressed, just like you would for any real work space. Of course, you don't have to go all-out with a suit and heels, but at least change out of your pajamas to prepare for the day ahead.
Cut Down on Distractions
It's way too easy to sit down for a shift at home and end up flipping through channels on TV, scrolling through Facebook, or taking a personal call and never quite returning to the work task at hand. Part of turning your home into a work-friendly environment is minimizing these distractions, according to Entrepreneur. Establish some hard-and-fast rules for yourself: no TV or social media during work time, no eating except during mealtimes, save the personal calls for after work. Creating and sticking to these rules will help separate your work routines from your personal routines, and increase productivity during work-designated hours.
Designate a Work Space
You can still leave work at work, even when it's in your home. Make sure to create and maintain a defined space as your work environment, and tailor it to your work-related needs. Claim an office or a sectioned-off part of your home as your work space, and personalize it with a good-sized desk, comfortable office chair and all the tools you expect to need during your workday, as suggested by MindTools. If possible, work in a space where you can close the door, creating a physical boundary between your work space and the rest of your home. Establishing such physical boundaries can help you to create mental boundaries, as well. Set regular short breaks through your workday, during which you leave your work area and relax, make personal calls or eat lunch in another part of your home, and only return to your work-specific area when your break is over and it's time to start working again.
End Your Work Days
In an office job, when you leave the office, you're done with work. But when you work from home, it's hard to create that boundary – your work day might bleed into your personal time, especially if you allow yourself to be in constant communication with your superiors and colleagues. Establish a consistent routine with relatively consistent work hours, and communicate those hours to your colleagues, so they know when you'll be available and when you won't be. Consider muting email and Slack notifications outside of your work hours, as well. If you make yourself available to your colleagues at all hours, they may come to expect you to be available all the time, which would make work-life balance impossible to achieve.
Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, California, and she holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.