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7 Ways to Improve Work-Life Balance When You Work at Home

Shannon Gausepohl

When you exclusively work from home, physical boundaries between work and your personal life can feel virtually nonexistent. Even if you're organized, it can still be difficult to successfully manage your career and a household in the same space, especially if you're raising a family, too.

While it may not be possible for home-based business owners and workers to completely draw the line between personal and professional, there are ways to better integrate the different facets of your life. Experts provided some tips for better work-life balance when you work at home.

Get dressed

When you work in an office, part of your normal routine includes changing out of your pajamas and into work-appropriate attire. Though it's tempting to work in your favorite PJs, it may not be the best option for productivity.

"It helps if you get dressed as if you are going to work," Lisa Chui, VP of finance and HR at Ubiquity Retirement and Savings, told Business News Daily. "You don't have to wear a suit or heels, of course, but don't stay in your pajamas, either. Dressing in clothes that you would wear outside of the home helps you get into the mindset of work."

Getting ready is important, especially because the can affect the way you feel.

"Treat [your home] like a real work environment," said Sara Davidson, founder of online female entrepreneur school Hello Fearless. "It makes a huge difference when you feel like [it is]. It changes the culture." [See Related Story: A Workplace That Works: Designing an Inspiring Office]

Create (and maintain) a designated work space

Much like putting on a proper outfit, committing to only doing work in a defined space, like an office or another sectioned-off area of your home, can help to create a more productive work environment.

"It's critical to commute out of the bedroom to a dedicated workspace that separates work from personal space," said Bob Higgins, co-founder of board game Linknotize. "Once you've commuted to your workspace, treat your day as if you've actually left the house. In addition to having a dedicated work area, it is also really important to keep at least one space in the house as a business-free zone."

"I find that having a dedicated home office space is very helpful," added Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. "Personally, I work from a renovated space above my garage, but the people on my team set up their home offices in guest bedrooms, renovated closets, corners of the living room and other creative areas."

When you do find a space or dedicate a room separate from the rest of the house, treat it like an office, suggests Charles Sankowich, CEO and founder of Friendthem, a social app.

"Keep the doors shut and avoid distractions," he said "No TV, no radio and make sure others in the household respect your space and don't interrupt you. They, like you, have to be disciplined to treat your office like an office."

Effectively communicate

Working from home can create a disconnect; both with a "typical" work structure and the team. It's important to touch base with the team and communicate effectively.

"If your company has a tool like Slack, join in the conversations and try to have some verbal communication, either by telephone or by the computer so that you have conversations," Chui said. "If you are local but still work at home, try to go into the office for big team or company events."

Chui encouraged remote workers to come into the office at least once a quarter, and participate in their company's intranet, if it has one.

Block out your time to focus on specific tasks

Giving your full attention to a specific task, regardless of whether it's work- or home-related, can be tough with all the distractions that pop up throughout the day.

"I want to give so much to my family and I also want to give so much to my [business]," said Melissa Holland, president and founder of maternity bra line BeliBea. "It can be challenging to divide time between those two, especially when working from home."

"Set your priorities and stick to them. As someone who has worked from home, I set times for when I work and I stick to them," said Sankowich. "I don't deviate from the tasks. I will always to do other things around the house (laundry and such) but I will not let house chores interfere with the tasks at hand and the times that I’ve allotted for work."

Holland said the most helpful way to accomplish this is to set aside specific times on your schedule for personal and professional to-dos.

"Dedicating time to one area helps me stay focused during those moments and ensure I'm giving my all to the task at hand," she said.

Take breaks 

Another obstacle to work-life balance for home-based professionals is the feeling of being "trapped" in their own home. If you don't have any urgent errands to run or appointments, you could find yourself cooped up at home for several days at a time.

"Because the normal distractions are not there, it's important to remember that you still need to take breaks so that you don't find yourself working nonstop for a long period of time," Chui said. "It's important to get up every hour and stretch and walk around, plus take a proper lunch."

Christopher Conner, president of Franchise Marketing Systems, noted that people who work at home should make time for personal activities outside the house, whether it's visiting a local museum or taking a short vacation.

"When you are doing something personal that makes you happy, that's when you get the inspiration and drive to start something new in business," Conner said.

Learn to "turn off" your business

Although being connected and communicative with your team is important, it's equally important to shut off when the day is over. If you're available all hours of the day, it will quickly become an expectation and work-life balance will be nonexistent.

"I let my team know my general working hours, and they do the same for me," Sutton Fell said. "That way, we're not expecting people to be available around the clock, and we know more or less when someone is or isn't going to be available for work-related things. This helps us all stay connected, while at the same time, setting and respecting each other's boundaries and need for work-life balance."

Sutton Fell noted that managers model this kind of behavior to their remote teams, to avoid confusion, overwork and burnout.

Conner advised creating a separate email address for after-hours issues that may arise, and tell your employees and professional contacts to only use this address for emergency situations. To put your mind at ease about missing anything urgent, check it just once after you decide to stop working for the day, Conner said.

Make time to unwind

Entrepreneurs should also focus on decompressing during unscheduled "transitional" time during the day.

"I like the idea of building in 'white space' to my day — having a transition period between work and non-work hours," Sutton Fell said. "It can really help to adjust your mindset from work to home life. Even five or 10 minutes of unplanned time between when you end work and start your home-related activities can help."

The FlexJobs team reports doing meditation, having a cup of tea, stepping outside for some fresh air, and doing stretches as ways to spend "white space" time.

Additional reporting by Nicole Taylor. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Image Credit: William Perugini/Shutterstock
Shannon Gausepohl Member
<p>Shannon Gausepohl graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a degree in journalism. She has worked at a newspaper and in the public relations field. Shannon is a zealous bookworm, has her blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and loves her Blue Heeler mix, Tucker.&nbsp;</p>