If you work from home, chances are that the ‘creep’ of work vs home life has well and truly blurred.
The space where you’re a parent as well as a Zoom call host.
The place where your pooch is keeping you company but also disturbing the peace when the doorbell goes (hello delivery!)
The endless things that need doing around the house vs all the things you need to do within your business.
Like when it’s a sunny day and the laundry basket is full and it’s easier to go and put a load on than deal with your inbox.
Let’s face it – working from home requires way more than just setting up your office with a suitable desk, chair, monitor and lighting. That’s the easy bit!
Blurring of boundaries can lead to all sorts of issues:
- Exhaustion from trying to multitask (which the experts tell us is flawed to even attempt)
- Frustration and resentment that the kids (or fur babies) won’t stop interrupting. Followed by guilt that you expect them to
- Feeling like you need to be constantly ‘on’. This can lead to longer work days, nights spent online, and ‘doing a bit of work’ at times you don’t really want to
- Getting stuck on your phone for hours, scrolling, when you only meant to check one thing
- Trying to nail some video content with unwanted ‘extras’. In my case, that’s the dog who decides to start pacing at every opportunity, and the sound of her click-clacking along the floor is not what I want from my audio
When your boundaries are constantly crossed, it can be easy to notice your emotions spiking:
- Feeling frustrated or angry at your situation
- Feeling misunderstood and unappreciated (this builds resentment)
- Feeling guilty (like anyone needs more mum guilt)
- Flying off the handle at the slightest thing because you’ve reached the end of your tether
If this is you, let me share some simple strategies to help:
1. Don’t Expect Others to Read Your Mind:
It’s amazing how often we expect people to know what we want, without ever having communicated this clearly. Whether it’s school holidays, your partner also works from home or your mum calls you for a long chat during the week, so much angst can be avoided if you’re clear with others.
Let them know what’s ok (eg can we catch up at lunchtime, I’m flat out today); what’s not ok (eg Mum, give me a buzz on the weekends because I won’t be able to chat during the week when I’m working). And for the school holidays, that might look like this: I need to get some things done this morning so that we can go out this afternoon. What do you need from me before I get started, after that I’ll be unavailable except in emergencies – obviously, adjust this depending on the age of your children for their physical and emotional well-being).
2. Give A Heads-Up of What To Expect:
- I’m going on a call in 30 mins and I’ll be on it for an hour. Can you please do whatever (noisy or interrupting thing) you need to do before then, so I won’t get interrupted on my call (if only we could extend that to the neighbour that gets the lawnmower out at the worst possible time!)
- For some bizarre reason, our microwave impacts any connections so I always ask my kids if they need to use the microwave before a call!
3. Create a dedicated space for work if at all possible:
Sure, sometimes you need to get started in a less-than-ideal setup. For me, my old ‘office’ was in our spare room. It worked a treat. That is until my international in-laws would visit for a month at a time, and I’d be trying to work from the couch. Spoiler alert – it was not ideal. (Suffice to say, my non-negotiable for building our current home was that it had a spare bedroom AND an office. So now while they’re currently staying with us, I still have full access to my office)..
If you can’t have that yet, work out what the best situation for now is. You’ll need even clearer and better-communicated boundaries than ever, to ensure you can work when you need, and switch off when you need.
Other alternatives include finding a co-working space or working from a cafe. I usually write blog posts and my email campaigns from a cafe so that my butt stays in the chair; I can’t get distracted (usually that’s the dog wanting to go in, then out, then in…) and a different environment gets my creative juices going to write more easily and with better flow.
4. Work Out Your Most Productive Time & Guard It With Your Life:
If you use an online calendar system (I use Calendly), make sure that your most productive times are unavailable.
Just because you don’t have something booked, doesn’t mean you have to be available. This is a boundary along the lines of: just because I’m free, doesn’t mean I’m available.
Carve out boundaries for yourself around being online. My boundary is that I don’t scroll on my phone if I’m working at my desk. I also manage social media engagement from the Meta Business Suite, so I won’t dive into the actual apps. I choose a different time to do this than my most productive time because I don’t need my full focus.
I also turn my iPhone onto work mode so that calls and messages don’t come through.
And I carve out Friday afternoons from 12-3 to be workfree. I love hitting Friday arvo knowing that I’m switching off and can do as I please before the kids get home. This is a boundary I need to stick to with myself, and also ensure my online calendar reflects this.
5. Be Prepared To Use Consequences:
If you have asked not to be disturbed, but it keeps happening, what are the consequences? I had one client who would finish her work day and immediately the kids would be asking for things. There’s nothing wrong with this; she just needed a breather to be able to take stock and re-centre herself. Otherwise, she was finding herself snappy and irritable with them. And then feeling guilty.
She started to incorporate a short (10mins) ‘break’ at the end of her work day. This meant she could go into another room, by herself, and do some breathwork that she’d learnt with me. If the kids came in before she was finished, she would tell them the time started again. And then she would follow through (their dad was also home so they weren’t being ignored).
She was able to create some space to manage her emotions at the end of her workday and decompress so that she could then be the best mum and wife to her family. It worked a treat.
If your mum keeps calling you on a Monday morning, even though you’ve asked her to call you on weekends, don’t answer the phone. (Or better still, use that ‘work mode’).
And ideally, send her a message later to tell her you’ll call her back on the weekend (or whatever you decide). If you don’t have a consequence to maintain the boundary, you don’t really have a boundary. Trust me, you might cop some flak, and you might receive resistance, but she’ll soon stop calling you on Mondays!
If you’ve tried all of the practical strategies but still find it hard to stick to your boundaries, it might be your inner people pleaser, the reluctant superhero (or the Hero) or good girl that is standing in the way.
Shifting our relationship with ourselves, and then feeling worthy of developing healthy, supportive boundaries, is where the gold lies.
Kylie xTags: boundaries business boundaries small business coaching