How to stop your home office taking over the house

There are lots of advantages to working from home. You can, for example, save time and money by not having to commute to and from an office every day. It’s also easier to work flexible hours that you can fit around other responsibilities such as childcare.

However, while working from home can be positive for your work-life balance, failing to establish strict boundaries can leave you feeling like you’re working all the time.

Here’s how to keep your work and home lives separate and ensure your home office does not end up taking over the house.

The home working revolution

Millions of people have had to adjust to working from home over the last 18 months – whether they wanted to or not.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the proportion of working adults who did any work from home increased to 37% in 2020, up from 27% in 2019.

Now, despite offices opening up around the country, 24% of businesses plan to allow more home working in the future too. At big four accountant PwC, for example, UK workers will be able to spend 40-60% of their time working remotely, the company announced earlier this year.

The number of remote job opportunities is also rising, with three times as many adverts mentioning home working in May 2021 as in February 2020.

“While the proportion of workers both working from home and travelling to work has remained relatively stable, evidence from the OPN and the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) suggests individuals and workplaces anticipate increased levels of hybrid models of working after the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ONS said.

5 ways to make working from home work for you

1. Create a designated workspace

Devoting one particular space to working during office hours is a good way to avoid work spilling over into your home life.

“I turned the spare room into an office, and I don’t let myself work from anywhere else but there,” says Charlotte Kitchman, founder at virtual assistant service The Admin Crowd.

“I think it’s important to keep work at work in the same way you would if you were working in an office away from home. So, I bought storage solutions from Ikea to make sure I could keep all my paperwork and equipment stored away in that room.”

2. Make sure you’re fully connected

There’s little more frustrating than trying to work when the internet connection is running slowly or down altogether. 

A high-speed internet connection, with enough bandwidth to cope when everyone you live with is also online, is therefore essential to successful home working.

To avoid the lines between your work and personal time becoming too blurred, it’s also sensible to use a separate laptop or computer for work if you can.

3. Clear work stuff away when you’re not working

Not everyone has a separate room they can use as a home office. But you can still stop your home feeling like a work environment by tidying away your computer and papers at the end of each day.

It’s an approach that works for HR manager Valerie Conroy. “I have been working at the dining room table,” she says.

“But I was very disciplined about shutting down my laptop and clearing all my work papers away every day, so they weren’t in my face in the evenings and at weekends. It helped me to relax when I wasn’t working.”

4. Stick to normal working hours where possible

When you’re engrossed in a piece of work, it’s tempting to keep plugging away at it late into the night. But engineer Niki French has found a novel way of avoiding work creeping into her home life in this way.

“I started walking around the block before I sat down at my desk, pretending it was my commute to work,” she says.

“At the end of the working day, I would then turn my computer off and walk the other way around the block as if I was commuting home again. It helped to give my working day a definite beginning and end.”

5. Do what works for you

We are all different, so while following the tips above can be helpful, the most important thing is to find what works for you.

“I don’t actually think you need a designated space to work from home successfully,” says long-term homeworker Philippa Shipp, director of the Miss Kantoor Virtual Assistant service.

“Personally, I like to mix it up by working in different rooms, which I can do because I store almost everything online”.

In summary

Working from home can be great, as long as you have the discipline to concentrate on work when you should – and not when you shouldn’t. The main dos and don’ts are:

  • DO make sure you have the appropriate equipment – including a high-speed internet connection
  • DON’T slip into the habit of working longer hours and not giving yourself enough time to relax
  • DO keep work stuff out of sight and out of mind when you are not working

Further reading

The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

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