Setting Boundaries When Working From Home

Working from home is top-of-mind for many people these days. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in innumerable businesses sending innumerable employees home to work to keep them safe and isolated from others. Working from home has long been top-of-mind for us–we’ve been a virtual business since 2008. So from a workday standpoint, the virus hasn’t created that much disruption for us. It has created some new opportunities, though.

One of them is that I was asked to write a new book on managing remote workers by a publisher I had worked with previously to write books on telecommuting and managing off-site staffSelf-Counsel Press. It’s been a fun project and has provided me with an opportunity to gain insight about managing remote workers from a wide range of experts, managers and remote workers themselves.

Of course, one of the greatest concerns for both managers and employees is ensuring that remote workers remain productive. Despite sentiment to the contrary, most studies indicate that not only can remote workers remain productive from home, but that many of them report being more productive. There are, however, some missteps that employees can make, especially those who are working from home for the first time.

In my experience, and based on things I’m hearing now from employees who find themselves suddenly working from home, the biggest mistakes that people make when working from home are:

  1. Not getting “ready for work” in the morning. While you certainly don’t have to “dress up” as you might when going into the traditional workplace, you should establish a routine in the morning and actually “get ready” for work—take a shower, put on clothes that aren’t your pajamas or sweat pants and make sure your hair/face look presentable in the event that you’ll find you suddenly have a Zoom meeting or Skype call during the day. In addition, getting ready makes you “feel like working.” It may seem silly, but it’s true. You’ll be more productive and more in the groove if you get ready for work each day.
  2. Not having a specific place to work that is equipped with the tools and supplies you need. This should be a quiet area where you can work undisturbed. It doesn’t have to be an entire room—even a corner of the basement or some other room will do. But it should be an area that is dedicated to doing your work.
  3. Not establishing “rules of engagement” for those around you. When you’re working, you should be working. Make sure your spouse/partner, children and others in the home know when you’re working and need to be undisturbed.
  4. Not establishing rules to govern your own behavior. In many cases, you’ll be required to follow existing workplace policies. But, if you’re an independent contractor, for instance, you may need to establish your own guidelines. For instance, no alcohol consumption during work time, only two “personal lunches” a week, how many afternoons or days you can take off, etc.
  5. Not following a schedule. It’s easier to work and be productive when you dedicate certain days/times of the day for doing so. I’m at my desk by 8:00 a.m. every morning, for instance, and work until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday (and also often work in the mornings on the weekend).
  6. Not respecting your downtime. One of the challenges of working from home is the tendency to work too much (despite fears that supervisors have long had about people working from home not working enough!). Establish boundaries between work time and personal time and stick to them.

Fortunately for some, and not fortunately for others, working from home may be a reality for many people for the foreseeable future. There certainly can be benefits to this, but there can be downfalls as well. Avoiding the common pitfalls mentioned above can be a great way to ensure that you can be both productive and effective when working from home.

My new book, tentatively titled “Remote Management: Mastering the New Normal” is scheduled to be published this fall. If you’re interested in getting a notification when it’s published, email me at: linda@stratcommunications.com. I’ve also set up a Twitter account to share information, news and tips on working remotely and managing remote workers.

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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