I am Kate Bathon Shufeldt, a Board member of the Indiana Evaluation Association and owner of Thrive Nonprofit Solutions, an independent consulting firm in Indianapolis. Having worked from a home office for years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had an opportunity to develop and refine my strategies for working from home. While there is a multitude of resources to help you track projects and connect virtually with colleagues, one of the most important lessons I learned was how to NOT work at home.
When your office is just down the hall from the kitchen and living room, it is incredibly easy to blur the lines between “work time” and “family/home time.” There are often times where I work past 5:00, especially when it is site visit or deadline season. However, recognizing that sometimes you must make yourself NOT work helps ward off a lot of frustration and burn out.
Below are a few tricks and strategies I use to help separate work life from home life.
- Adjust the notifications settings on your phone, so you only receive notices during “work” hours. Unless you or a client are nearing a deadline, there is no reason you need to check your email at 9:00 PM.
- To the extent possible, establish a work area that is separate from your living area so you can walk away for the evening. If you have an office, this is easy. However, if you have to set up shop at the dining table or kitchen counter, move your laptop out of the way when you are finished for the day so that it creates a sense of “coming home.”
- If your work does not require it and you are not on a deadline, don’t be a clock-watcher. While it is essential to establish a routine when working from home, there are also some freedoms that you should recognize. If you hit a wall at 3:00 and you don’t HAVE to complete something that afternoon, don’t force yourself. If you are having a slow morning and don’t make it to your computer until 10:00, that is okay. I found that forcing myself to continue sitting at my desk when my brain is done for the day is counterproductive and actually sets me back. If I have a frustrating day at work one day, then the next is already off to a rough start. Use that afternoon for some extra “me” time and start fresh the next day.
- Shower and put on “real” clothes. This may sound simple, but it is vital. “Real” clothes can still be comfortable and more casual than you might wear to the office, but you should not spend all day in your pajamas. It makes you feel like a workday has begun, and your colleagues on Zoom calls will appreciate it.
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