For most of us work is not a self-contained thing that only happens in the confines of our offices. Whether it’s a formal work-from-home situation, a Blackberry tether, or simply our favorite topic of conversation, work has a way of crossing the invisible barrier into our home lives. This is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, the ability to work effectively from home has enabled more people to balance childcare and a career.
It does, however, require us all to draw some lines and make some rules about work and home. It is obvious that having one’s children running around the office playing with the copy machine and demanding dinner would make for an unproductive workplace and would be damaging to one’s career. It seems less obvious to some however, that typing out emails on one’s blackberry during the toddler’s bathtime is similarly unproductive and damaging for the family dynamic. Even if you do not have children or a partner at home, the inability to get away from the office at the end of the day can put you on the fast track to burnout.
The rules will be different depending on the nature and expectations of your workplace and, to a certain extent, your responsibilities at home. Here are some guidelines to get you started.
- Technology: Blackberries, iPhones, email, etc. are all wonderful inventions that allow us to get a million things done at once and never miss out on anything. However, being available to your work demands all the time means that you are never truly on your own time. Unless you are a doctor on call, there is probably no reason you need to have your phone on and next to you at all time. Try setting aside a couple of hours every day or every week when your phone is off, or at least located in another room.
- Talking about work: A friend and her partner both work at the same organization and she has said that one of the biggest challenges in their relationship is forcing themselves to talk about something other than work. There’s nothing wrong with downloading to partners and friends after a long day of work but if you find that work has become your main topic of conversation, perhaps it is time to find a hobby or at least see a movie!
- Working from home: the toughest balance of work and home comes for those who work from home. This includes people working remotely from a large organization and those with more independent pursuits like starting their own business or freelancing. In these situations it is crucial to create a structure and hold yourself to it. For example, set working hours and force yourself to start and end work at a certain time or cordon off a section of your home as a designated workspace.
How else do you separate work from home?