Compartmentalising home-based working and family life

For a growing number of us, remote work is a reality. Cloud computing makes it easy to be at work when you are at home, in a coffee shop or even in a co-working centre. Whether you work on your own or as part of a distributed team, home-based working is here to stay.

And while technology makes home-based working easier than ever, those gains can easily be blown apart by the infringement of family life. You need systems and boundaries. Here are our top tips for compartmentalising your working life from your home life.

Setting work hours and being strict about them

A big part of working from home successfully is having a routine. Whether your hours are 9-5 or 11-7, make sure that you structure your day. If you don’t set strict work hours, you’re likely to burn out. When your home space is where you work, it can be difficult to draw boundaries with yourself and not jump on a business call after hours or finish an article late at night. Still, it’s so important to make sure that once your business hours are over, you stop working. One thing that can help you do this is to create a space in your home that’s reserved for work only. If you have the means to do so, setting up a home office is great, but if not, this could be as simple as having a desk where you set your computer and any other work documents. That way, when you walk away from your desk at the end of the workday, you’ll signal to your brain that you’re done with work and need to relax now. Simultaneously, when you’re at your desk, you’ll be dedicated to your work and will be able to focus better.

Spending time with your family

After you’re done with your working hours, it’s essential to structure time to spend with your family. Make sure that your computer or laptop is off and give your full attention to your loved ones. They will notice if you’re preoccupied with work all of the time, and it’s not healthy for you to have no balance between your work and spending time with the people you love. If you live with your family, it can be helpful if you write your work schedule on a piece of paper for the week or let them know what your work hours will be before the week starts. That way, they’ll understand when your job will occupy you and when you’ll be able to dedicate your focus to them.

Setting boundaries with loved ones

Friends and family can be respectful of the fact that you work from home, but sometimes, people have difficulty understanding what that means. If they don’t get it and get upset when you don’t take phone calls during the day, you can explain to them what it means to work remotely throughout the day. What working remotely involves is being dedicated to the duties of your job during business hours. Tell them what your business hours are and say, “even though I’m at home, I do have set hours. My work is being monitored throughout the day, and I could get in trouble if I don’t complete things or if I’m caught doing other things throughout the day.” Even if you work for yourself alone, tell them that you have to meet deadlines, and be present with clients. Friends and family need to respect the fact that you will not be answering the phone if you’re unavailable, and if they can’t understand that boundary, impose it by not responding when you’re working. You can send them a quick text to say, “I’m sorry, I’m working, but I’m available to speak on my lunch hour or after work at 5 pm my time,” but they need to be receptive of that when you’re doing work remotely, you are dedicated to your projects and can’t speak to them at that time.

Avoiding burnout

It’s essential to take time for self-care and do the things you love in addition to working. Prioritise a good night’s sleep, exercise and healthy eating. Try mediation, it is one of the best ways there is of training your brain to keep things in proportion.

If you fail to properly compartmentalise work from home, then you will find yourself suffering from an unreasonable level of stress. If it tips into melt-down or burn-out, then make sure that you get professional help. For busy professionals, online therapy can be a great place to talk about your struggles at work and balance your work and life. A good therapist can help you with time management skills, your work-life balance, or for any other reason, such as struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

With a solid plan and sensible boundaries, the gains of working from home will far outweigh those potential pitfalls. Imagine a life without commuting and where you can be around for your family when they need you. It is entirely possible if you don’t leave it to chance.

Marie Miguel Compartmentalising home-based working and family lifeAuthor: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.