Mastering Working From Home: Establishing Boundaries

By Tracie Chancellor

“Establishing Boundaries” was the focus of a recent Lunch & Learn at TeleReach Corporate, and the meeting was quite popular with everyone on the call.  It seems that just about everyone, at one time or another, have had to deal with various issues involving “claiming your space,” that is, getting family and others to respect the time and privacy required to excel at working from home.  Unless that time and privacy are respected, it is virtually impossible to do well working at home.

Our Lunch & Learn included a group discussion to answer three basic questions: (1) – How do you solicit support from your family to work from home? (2) What do you do to separate work from your personal life?, and (3) What challenges have you faced working from home, and what solutions have you found?. A few key observations, seven in all, kept recurring suggesting that they are important ones to consider for all who are—or who are considering—working from home.

These seven key observations are as follows:  

  • Define a specific workplace; don’t just plop down wherever there’s room.
  • Set clear working hours and don’t go back into your work from home office space after hours.
  • Let your friends and family know you work from home and what your work hours are, and let people know when you are working.
  • Be consistent: work when you say you’re going to be working so as not to create confusion for friends and family.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Get your family’s support so that they believe in you and they’re your cheerleaders.
  • Try to avoid taking non-business calls during business hours. Set aside time to return those calls when it’s convenient for you and doesn’t interrupt your work.

Here are some of the other ideas shared at the meeting:

When my kids were little and I worked from home, I had glass doors to my office so that I could still watch them. I made sure they had plenty of activities to do, I checked on them frequently.– Laurel H.

I do accounting and I homeschooled 3 boys. We actually did everything together. They had their tasks for the day and I had mine, and we just did it. — Paula G.

I put a sign on the door that said, “This is a business from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. If you want to reach [my sons] text them or message them on Facebook” to keep people from knocking. — Mandi M.

My mother lives with me and she cooks meals that always used to get cold. Now I now make sure that I eat at certain times of the day. I make doctor appointments at 8:00 Eastern so I don’t miss work.  I schedule other appointments on Saturday. — Cheryl C.

I try to eat during the company’s noon meetings so I don’t waste my dialing time. — Sally B.

I start a little bit later than everyone else because it’s important to me to still take [my kids] to school in the mornings. But I also work a little bit later in the day than most. — Lizette T.

I recently learned that doctors say that if you’re in a dimly lit room, or a room without windows, your mind thinks it’s time to go to sleep. My office in my new home is well lit and my energy level is much higher than it was before. — David H.

I put up pretty curtains to shut off my specific office area and when the curtains are closed every-one knows I’m working. — Melissa A.

I make sure first thing in the morning that everything’s covered and my Dad is OK. I listen constantly because he’s accident-prone. I take the time to have lunch with him. — Melanie V.

We’ve gotten into the habit of passing notes. Somebody can pass me a note and I can read a note or write a note at the same time that I’m listening or speaking.– Tracie C.

At the end of the day, I make a list of what I need to do the next day and prioritize the list. I started doing the same thing for my personal life. — Alice A.

I think it’s important to take breaks during the day, even if it’s only 5 minutes to get up and stretch so that you don’t feel like you’re stuck to the desk all the time. — Marcella D.

I think people who work from home need to be cognizant of moving around; your health is an important thing to take care of when you’re working from home. – -Marilyn D.

My commitment is to set aside 30 minutes a day for exercise so I don’t turn into a roly-poly. — Sharyl V.

I have a virtual phone number that I’ve never given out to friends and family because we use our cell phones. So, if I get a call on the computer phone I know it’s a business call back. — Kurt F.

In Summary:

If you work from home, set boundaries for your work time and space that will allow you to succeed.  If you were to ask a neighbor to stay home from his or her away-from-home office to run you to the airport or pick up your dry cleaning, they would think you were nuts!  There’s no chance they would do it.  But for some reason, people tend to think that if you work from home, and therefore set your own work schedule, it’s no big deal for you to slip out of your “work from home” office and run some errands.  You must disabuse them of this false notion!  Your work is just as important as theirs; you just happen to work from home.  And by setting some boundaries and politely letting the people who need to know about them know, you will be much more efficient and get quite a bit more done, not to mention you will avoid some awkward moments of having to decline some ill-timed requests.

Tracie Chancellor