Setting Boundaries Between Work and Home During the Pandemic

Women are adjusting to a new work/life balance due to the new reality brought on by COVID-19.
Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash

What is the biggest source of strife from women during the COVID-19 pandemic? Setting boundaries between work and home! COVID-19 has ushered in the era of working from home that most of us dreamed of, but now that it’s here, many women are having a “buyer’s remorse”, so to speak. 

Now it’s not all bad, working from home does have advantages: flexibility, a customized schedule, and the ability to prepare yourself an extravagant lunch that could never survive the workplace microwave!

For some women, working from home allows them to balance their lives, particularly with regards to investing energy into their companions or children. But without some consistent boundaries, family can saturate your life and cause you to feel completely unhinged. 

Boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used or violated by others. Identifying the need to set boundaries with your family is crucial in creating the right balance for working at home.

Here are seven tips to consider to get the work/life balance that is required to successfully work from home.

Take Care of Yourself

Tip #1: Get Dressed Daily

For better or worse, working from home allows for a certain laxness to permeate your work life. The first place this laissez faire attitude pops up is in our wardrobe. While rolling out of bed and immediately logging in may buy working moms a few more minutes of sleep, studies show doing this only makes workers slow and sluggish.

You need to get up, take a shower, and get dressed to work at their full potential. Getting ready for work will put you in the right frame of mind TO work. You know the saying, “If you look good, you feel good, and you do good.”

Tip #2: Practice Self-Care

We all need fresh air! Try getting in a workout, make time for your hobbies, cook something tasty, or watch Netflix and chill. Positive vibes will help you get your energy back and create some natural serotonin that will contribute to your wellbeing and happiness. Remember, the healthiest version of yourself is better for you and everyone around you. 

Establish Rules for Your Environment

Tip #3: Set a Schedule

Working from home is the new normal, so you need to set some boundaries and rules that reflect our new reality.  For example, what should your work time be? Do your work hours match with your colleagues? Is your employer flexible with your work hours? Since all your co-workers will have different circumstances, you need to set rules that jive with the rest of your team from the start.

Sticking to a schedule will make you and other women working from home be more productive. Your colleagues, boss, and clients will also benefit from knowing when you will be available to work and what your office hours are.  To avoid a disturbance in your schedule, plan every task beforehand, and according to the time you have.

Tip #4: Timebox

Working from home can be comfortable; sometimes too comfortable! If you find yourself breaking the “workplace rules” and working when you feel like it, you’re not alone.  But hang on, even though this is common, it is not the right course of action.  

Time boxing is a time management strategy that may seem rigid, but can help if you’re having trouble keeping yourself accountable. Set a timer for X amount of time for each task you have to complete for the day, and then complete that task. For example, the inbox can take hours to sort through, but for most people, most of their emails are non-urgent. Set a timer for 20 minutes and go through your emails, when the 20 minutes is over move on to the next task.

Another example is time boxing your parenting duties. If you and your partner share parenting duties, ask your spouse to take care of the children during X amount of your working hours so that you can work more efficiently and set boundaries between your work and personal life. Working this way will allow you to give your full attention to work durning work time, and your children during family time.

Tip #5: Create Your Own Space

Working from home can be exhausting.  You need your own space to show yourself some grace. Keep a physical boundary while working from home between you and your family. Having a small, organized office space will freshen up your mood and give you more energy to live your life.  If you are not the parental figure who is taking care of the children, shut the door of your room during working hours. Retreat to your detached room, set up your remote office, and do quality work.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Tip #6: Plan Ahead

Be prepared for the unexpected. Between your children, pets, and spouse, problems can occur that you need to solve immediately, and even issues that are not pressing can cause distractions. Try to plan ahead by doing simple things like preparing snacks the night before, or downloading cartoons that can keep your children busy while you are working.  If you can swing it, try to get a lunch break scheduled that corresponds with their most “awake” time, so that you can care for them when they are most active.

Tip #7: Get the Right Equipment

Technology has turned the world into a global village. It is now easier than ever to work from home using cloud computing and fast internet connections. You can access the office online, or off, depending on your office set up and rules.  All you need is the right equipment. 

Wi-Fi Connection: You will have to ensure that you have a good Wi-Fi connection with fast bandwidth as your family and children are using the internet at the same time as you.  Make sure you are working while the internet connection has a stable signal. If you cannot purchase faster internet, sometimes a hardwire connection can help; Wi-Fi is great for casual browsing, but for those using more computing power, an ethernet cable can be a godsend. 

Webcam and microphone: Make sure you have a good quality webcam if you don’t have a camera on your laptop, and a high-quality microphone for speaking with your teammates and clients.   

Computer: Working from home can include long working hours, and a desktop is more comfortable than a laptop.  Working on a laptop can cause back problems, desktop computers will help you maintain a healthy posture while working.  

Hope for the Future

While this list is not comprehensive, I think these tips are a great starting point for women trying to create the balance needed to work from home. Data tells us that 54% of women are frustrated by their lack of ability to set boundaries while working from home, and 21% feel that they are unable to establish a separate workspace.

What do you think? What steps are you going to take to set healthy boundaries while balancing work and home? Setting boundaries is healthy, and it isn’t just something you need to do to survive COVID-19. Establishing boundaries takes practice and determination; don’t let anxiety, fear, or guilt prevent you from taking care of yourself. Create or join a support group of other women working from home you can reach out to for when you feel overwhelmed. Remember it’s a process that takes time, do it on your own pace, but definitely prioritize it. Stay energetic, focused, and don’t give up!   

Here are a couple of my favorite inspirational quotes that I hope will inspire you too.

  • “Selfcare means giving yourself permission to pause.” – Cecilia Tran 

  • “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”–  Brene Brown

If you need help, I’m here. Reach out to me amichele@i2ecoaching.com for a complimentary session. Remember, when you take care of yourself, you have more to give to others.

 

Coach Michele

Leadership and Life Transition

www.i2ecoaching.com

916-970-9559

References:

Maclin, E. (2020, April 17). Setting Boundaries with Your Family When You Work from Home. Retrieved July 09, 2020, from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/setting-boundaries-with-your-family-when-you-work-from-home/

Collen, F.(2020,March 24) Working from home during COVID-19 proves challenging for faculty members. (n.d.). Retrieved July 09, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/03/24/working-home-during-covid-19-proves-challenging-faculty-members

Clement, T. (2020, May 08). Work From Home (WFH): 19 Proven Strategies To Be Productive And Happy. Retrieved July 09, 2020, from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/work-from-home-wfh-19-proven-strategies-to-be-productive-and-happy/

This, A. (n.d.). How to Set Boundaries When You Work From Home. Retrieved July 09, 2020, from https://skillcrush.com/blog/work-from-home-boundaries/

Andreason, S. (2020, March 18). COVID-19, Workers, and Policy. Retrieved July 09, 2020, from https://www.frbatlanta.org/cweo/workforce-currents/2020/03/18/covid-19-workers-and-policy