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Working From Home: What are Your Boundaries Around Work and Home?

For those of us who are now doing our jobs from our homes, it can be a challenge to differentiate between our work hours and our home hours. For most of us, the work of work never ends. And if you're now effectively living in your office, you can work on your job all the time.


We know that's not healthy, right? And frankly, if we're doing that all the time, the quality is going to go down. We need space away from work for our brains to recover, to "reboot."

If it's possible (parents of young children, we'll get to you in a minute), come up with some basic parameters for each. Time itself is a significant boundary. What time does your work begin, and when is it time to close? What are the boundaries that you need to give to yourself? Maybe this means not even looking at email between certain hours of the evening.

Can you create a ritual around ending your workday and starting your home evening? Maybe, weather-permitting, a cocktail or mocktail outside at 6 pm?

And it goes the opposite way, too. Perhaps there are home things that, if cordoned off from work time, will help you to feel slightly more normal, slightly more in control of your routine. As a recent joke goes, changing from your nighttime pajamas into your work pajamas. Establishing a corner (if you don't already have a home office) that is just for work.

And now, you parents ...

Goodness, all I want to do is give you a giant hug and tell you I'll watch the kids for a few hours, you go work on that presentation that's due next week. I'm genuinely sorry that I can't.

I know that carefully boundaried time divided into neat categories of "work" and "home" won't work for you. That you're having to answer that work email while at the same time telling Jimmy to stop putting silly putty in the dog's fur. Bouncing between the zoom room for your staff meeting and the online room for your child's class.

First, take just a couple of minutes to think about your personality and what will work for you. Maybe that means using a Time Tracker that you can easily turn on and off so that at the end of the day, you can see that all those 10-minute increments of work really did add up. (Bosses...DO NOT MAKE YOUR EMPLOYEES USE THESE AT THIS TIME. THIS IS FOR THEIR USAGE, NOT YOURS. WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF A FREAKIN' WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC. DO NOT BECOME "THAT BOSS.")

For some people, doing something like tracking time will allow them to rest at the end of the day. Others, that will be the thing that drives you bonkers. If that's the case ... don't do it. And don't do it if it's going to add to your feelings of martyrdom. That ain't healthy.

If you have more than one parent in your household, maybe you can agree to exchange some "Solid Time" time for "Permeable Time."

Solid Time: all work, no interruptions.
Permeable Time: working, but can also deal with kids.

And then there is the way too fleeting time ... let's call it "Mini-Vacation Time."

Mini-Vacation Time is when you give each other a whole luxurious hour ... an hour for taking a bath, reading a book, an hour blessedly alone.

Hey, maybe it can become a whole game of bargaining. "I'll give you two blocks of permeable time for one block of mini-vacation time."

Not that you have time for games ...

Hang in there, fam. This will not be forever. Someday in the future, you will be able to say, "Bye! I get to go to work!"

p.s. and for you parents - watch this video starting here, as John Oliver explains what it's like for him as a working parent. You are NOT alone.

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