How to draw the line between home and work

If you are working remotely, how can you strike a healthy balance between your work and home lives?

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that many of us are more than capable of working from home.

In fact, experts believe many people will spend all, or some, of their week working from home into the future.

Before COVID-19, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found 32 per cent of people regularly worked from home, but that number is likely to increase.

There are benefits to working from home – no commuting time, no parking or public transport fees and more flexibility to wear comfy jeans or trackie pants.

But the downside is it can be harder to draw a line between work time and home life.

Where does work and home life start and finish?

A study by Swinburne University found the blurring of the boundary between work and home has been a challenge for 47 per cent of people, while 37 per cent said they found it difficult to switch off after work.

“A similar German study found that people who work from home reported higher job satisfaction, but they also reported greater levels of exhaustion, irritability, sleep disorders and a lack of ability to concentrate,” says Swinburne researcher Anne Bardoel.

“This may be because digital technologies that enable us to work from home are available 24 hours a day and it takes much more individual responsibility to shut ourselves away from those technologies.”

4 top ways to divide work and home time

Culture change expert Colin Ellis says practical steps can help create a clearer divide:

Separate your working and living areas

If possible, establish your workspace in a place where you can close the door.

“Usually, people leave the office as a physical separation from work,” says Colin, author of Culture Hacks: 26 Ideas to Transform the Way You Work.

“Shutting the door to your home office is that physical representation of leaving work.

“If you work at the kitchen table, put your laptop in a drawer or cupboard. When it goes in the cupboard, you’ve ‘left work’. Put your work phone out of sight, too.”

Remove digital connections

Don’t constantly check work emails after hours, or turn off email notifications at a set time.

“Some days you may need to work longer, but when the day ends, turn off your work phone and mute email notifications,” says Colin.

Be clear about your tasks

At 5pm, write a “to-do” list for the next day so you don’t dwell on what you have to do tomorrow.

Write three to five items on the list – if you have too many items and don’t get through them, you may spend time stressing about that.

Jot down any new items that come to mind in a notebook – don’t be tempted to get out your laptop to record them.

Work around the kids

If you have young children, be realistic about what you can achieve each day and focus on making the most out of productive times.

“Those are the periods in the day where you can sit and really concentrate on completing a task,” says Colin.

Written by Sarah Marinos