Solitudinal Success – Establishing Boundaries While Working From Home

Over the past few months, millions of us have taken to working remotely from home, and millions of us will continue to do so even as the lockdown restrictions are relaxed on 4th July (the UK's very own 'Independence Day').

Some of us have taken to remote working like a duck on water, revelling in the home comforts and avoiding the morning commute. Others have found it more difficult, particularly keeping motivated and maintaining the right work-life balance.

With remote working likely to become a more permanent fixture for the foreseeable future, here are some tips on how to maximise productivity from within your own four walls…

Designate an office area

Working remotely means our home is our office. However, if we live in a flat or small house, the odds are we don't have a designated work area. A study, fitted with an office chair, two screen monitors and an InkJet printer, is a luxury enjoyed by the few, not the many.

At home, there are many places we could choose to work, such as the dining room table, kitchen table, couch and even potentially sitting up whilst in bed. Nowhere is off-limits. The danger is that the flat becomes the office, making it difficult to separate work time from down time (it also means the entire flat is likely to become a breadcrumb trail of pens, sticky notes and coffee cups).

Reclaim the sacred space of home by designating an official workspace. This will help bifurcate work and social time.

This should mean you are more focused and productive whilst working. With the rest of your home designated as a place of rest and recharging, this means you can fully vest in the downtime, which is crucial to avoiding overwork and burnout.

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Communicate with family or friends

If we live with friends and family, it’s incredibly easy to get distracted from sitting and getting down to work. All it takes is for a friend to offer you a coffee and before you know it, you’ve left your newly designated office space and are now chatting away in the kitchen. The day can run away from you.

If you are to be productive at home, you need to separate work and social, or down-time, so that you can devote the necessary time, effort and attention to get your work done in the most efficient way.

A natural starting point is to communicate with those who you cohabit, when you can be disturbed, and when you need to be alone and left in the 'zone'. This will help maximise your productivity, as well as avoid a circumstance when a half-dressed friend or spouse walks in on a video meeting with a client.

Perhaps the night beforehand, share what sorts of tasks you’re working on and whether they require absolute focus (i.e. don’t bother me) or they’re more mundane (i.e. fine, bother me, but make it quick). In essence, figure out a communication strategy that works for you and those you live with.

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Establish a schedule and accompanying routine

Schedules are always a useful tool for managing our time and getting stuff done. They’re great at detailing the tasks that need to be completed, prioritising them and then allocating the necessary time to get them done.

However, even if we’ve scheduled what needs to be done during the day, we can still be derailed if we don’t have a regular routine that supports our work aims.

Routines take on greater importance when we’re working at home as we don’t have the usual obligations that provide a basic structure to the day, such as getting dressed and looking presentable, and making the morning commute.

We need to establish our own routine to get structure and formality into the day. Try to establish a routine that is anchored by the basics, such as getting up at the same time, eating breakfast, and getting dressed.

Indeed, the morning is when we should set the tone for the rest of our day, as this is when the body gets a natural cortisol and energy spike, making it a great time to knock difficult tasks out

When the workday stops, stop working. Shut down, stop checking emails and focus on your home life. And at the end of the day, try to get to bed at your usual time.

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Pick up the phone and speak with colleagues and clients

When we’re at work, we’re much more engaged with colleagues. The seating plan often means we’re sat with our immediate teams, making it easy to communicate with each other.

Seamless and regular communication with colleagues is efficient for work related matters, and the human interaction is also good for our mental health. Humans are a social species and the likelihood is that we’re good friends with at least some of the people we work with and enjoy being with them.

In contrast, if we’re working from home and live alone, we can spend the whole day without speaking to anyone. The lack of chatter from colleagues and other office noise can feel really isolating.

Don’t hide behind text messages, email and instant messaging. Make some time to pick up the phone and have a real conversation with colleagues and clients.

Real life conversations are much more stimulating, and most likely, much more productive and impactful, than a chain of emails. You'll feel better for it.

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