by Niamh Brady, Productivity Coach
“I feel like I am always at work”. Does that statement sound familiar to you?
If you are working remotely from home, you may find that you are among the 51% of the workforce that work longer hours than when you are on-site in an office setting. And even when the laptop is finally switched off, work still often lingers in your mind long into the evening and weekends.
What can you do to better disconnect? Implementing a personal blend of boundaries that help to separate work in a way that suits you is both the most effective and sustainable way to do this. Setting boundaries around your time at work is the most popular option. Building supporting habits around devices, locations and situations help strengthen your time boundaries to improve work-life balance.
Creating Time Boundaries for Work
Implementing a time boundary means deciding in advance when you will and will not work. This helps to reduce the risk of working excessive hours. If you are working in a desk-based role, a time boundary may traditionally have looked something like 9.00 am -5.00 pm, Monday to Friday. Today’s workplace is always “on”, so you need to find a new way to switch off.
One option is that you decide in advance for the week how much time you will spend at work. That might look like planning at the start of each week and deciding what hours you will work each day. The hours might vary throughout the week, and you may even decide to work weekends. The objective here is not to try and fit into the traditional office hours mould, but to create a schedule that supports you.
If you would like to take a more holistic approach, you may also allocate a minimum number each week for wellbeing. This might be setting aside time for exercise or meditation, spending time with others, cooking and eating well, or perhaps time allocated to relax and do nothing. When you are creating a plan for the week, block out the wellbeing hours first to ensure they are not swallowed up by work and other tasks.
Why do you need to set device boundaries?
Time boundaries alone are no longer enough to help you disconnect from work. Cloud-based technology means you can connect to work on any device, at any time. You can now check your email and other work apps on your phone, tablet, laptop or pc – and this isn’t always a good thing. It is time to make a conscious decision about what devices you will use for work, and delete the apps from the rest. This will allow you to enjoy your devices without being drawn back into the virtual office.
Just because you can work from anywhere, it doesn’t mean that you should.
The third type of boundary is location boundaries. This is especially important if you work from home for part of the week or full-time. “No-work zones” are spaces within your home where you choose in advance not to work, no matter what. This might be the bedroom or the kitchen at weekends, (combining time and location boundaries). If you work a lot outside of the home, you might decide your favourite coffee shop will be a no-work zone. Creating these little pockets in your world where work doesn’t come in is an excellent way of supporting your overall wellbeing and can be tailored to suit you.
From now on, I won’t check my email in the queue.
Situational boundaries can be layered on top of time, device and location boundaries to create space where you may not first see it. It simply means having a set of situations where you will not work. One example is when you are in a queue. If you are in a queue of any type, you will see people checking their smartphones. You can decide that when you are in a queue, you won’t check your phone and use it for a few moments to switch off. You may also decide that mealtimes and time with family are situations where you will no longer check work.
Discover your blend of boundaries for work.
Time, device, location and situation boundaries work together to improve your work-life balance and support your wellbeing. For each type of boundary, make a list of the possible steps you can take and create a mix that fits you. Implement it without hesitation and look forward to working in a better way.