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How to Separate Your Work & Living Space When Working from Home

It’s essential to have a healthy work/life balance. [...]

It’s essential to have a healthy work/life balance. But when you work from home, all the household chores and random fun things you’d rather be doing can easily become an endless distraction. So, it goes without saying but, when working from home, it’s extremely beneficial to divide the two areas to allow for a healthier work/life balance. From keeping “office hours” to actually getting properly dressed, here are a few tips on how to separate your work and living space when working from home. 

Create a Dedicated Work Space

When you work from home, it’s important to designate a room or area as your dedicated workspace. Yes, the sofa is far more comfortable, but it’s probably not the most productive spot. Whether you choose a spare bedroom or carve out a small nook in a closet, be sure to have a separate space that allows you to focus on work with few distractions. It also helps to separate your work and living areas by distinguishing in your mind when to work and when to kick up your feet and relax. 

Even if you don’t have a large home with a spare bedroom you can turn into a home office, you can still visually divide your work area. Say, for instance, your workstation is in the corner of the living room or the bedroom. In this case, you could add a folding screen divider or even keep your computer tucked inside a cabinet, where you can shut the doors when not in use. 

The kitchen table works too, but, at the very least, it helps to keep the area clean and tidy when you put papers and files away in drawers. One extra tip: Clear the area at the end of each day so that it allows you to start fresh the next morning.  

Decorate and Have Fun with Your Work Space

Even though it’s your workspace, it’s still your home. In other words, you can do whatever you want with it! Paint a focal wall, add some charming task lighting, and hang tapestries with inspirational quotes to motivate you each morning. 

One way to separate your home office space is to use an eclectic and fun mug, unlike your matching kitchen set, as if you were bringing it into an office space to show your individuality. One thing to note here: Just make sure nothing is so distracting that it prevents you from accomplishing your tasks. For instance, add some speakers to stream tunes you can concentrate with, but avoid watching television or online YouTube videos in the background. 

Keep “Office Hours”

When working from home, keep set office hours. If you don’t, you may quickly find yourself answering phone calls when you should be taking time for yourself or spending your evening hours with family and friends. It’s also quite easy to check and reply to emails, especially when you use your personal cell for work. However, it’s essential to draw a line and create clear boundaries, both for you and for others. 

Avoid Multitasking Chores

Speaking of keeping office hours, once you are seated at your desk, avoid the temptation of multi-tasking with household chores. There’s always going to be chores around, from loads of laundry to last night’s dishes piled in the sink. But resist the urge to clean them—even this is a distraction! 

Some people can find a balance and are able to juggle household chores along with work tasks, simultaneously and without missing a beat. But it’s not for everyone. If you have a hard time separating your work and living space while working from home, avoid multitasking chores and wait until the evening or weekends. Instead, focus on your work agenda so as not to disrupt your flow. 

Take Schedule Breaks 

Treat your home office as any other workplace. Keep a lunch hour,  just as you keep office hours, and take a break only then. Carry a snack and water bottle to your desk so you don’t have to get up and walk all the way to the kitchen. This goes double if you designated your kitchen table as a workstation. Each time you get up, you’re tempted to grab food or dawdle around, as if seeking out distractions. 

Keeping a scheduled break in your daily routine can keep you focused the rest of the time and help you use your work hours efficiently. It also makes your home feel professional during daytime work hours, which prevents you from falling into a trap (i.e., a mid-day nap) and taking on a lazier mindset. 

Reward Yourself at the End of the Day

Once the day is over, reward yourself with something extra special. Maybe it’s a cup of soothing tea or maybe it’s a glass of wine to take the edge off. It could even be an at-home exercise routine or a walk around the block to get your blood pumping, after sitting in a chair all day. It could also be a self-care reward that allows you time to engage in a creative activity like writing in a journal or sketching.  

Whatever you choose, make sure to turn off your workstation area completely (to avoid evening distractions) so that you can recharge your brain. This sequence, although it seems simple, trains your brain and sends it an alert that the day is finally over and it’s time to relax in your living space. 

Separate Work Clothes from Comfy Clothes

Okay, this is a big one. It’s super tempting to roll out of bed and head straight to your workstation (or worse, keep your laptop by your bed), but when you need to separate your work and living spaces, you should also separate your work clothes from your lounging-around-the-house clothes too. Not every day can be casual Fridays. 

Now, that’s not to say you have to show up in your own home wearing a suit and heels and carrying a briefcase. But it helps to slip into something a bit more professional than your sweatpants. Not only does it save you from embarrassment on an impromptu video call, but it triggers a certain mindset that tells it you’re there to tackle the day. Studies have shown that our personal dress code does have an effect on our professional and personal lives.  

After the day is over, you can reward yourself with that glass of wine and jumping back into your favorite tee and jeans! 

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Laura Bartlett

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