Balance work and life from home

Discover what you can do to be as productive working from home as you are working from office.

If your work week centres around the daily commute and 8-hour shift, working from home should come as a welcome respite. No hasty breakfast, traffic woes and crowded public transport. Even better; more me-time, longer hours with family and enough time for daily workouts. It’s possible if set up a proper office space, make a schedule, identify priorities and deal with distractions.

Get into ‘office’ mode, at home

If you don’t help with chores or cooking, do everything exactly as would on a typical workday. Wake up to the morning alarm, freshen up, eat breakfast, dress up: follow every detail from morning through end of day, including lunch and breaks.

Start early

The temptation to stay in bed longer and take it easy in the morning is natural. Start early to beat morning sluggishness. An early start can also provide an extra break by way of breakfast when you can plan email replies or mentally prepare for the day ahead.

Define your working hours

Juggling domestic and professional tasks appears possible until you start doing it. Without a plan, domestic and work responsibilities make you inefficient. Unplanned breaks for domestic tasks break your rhythm, not to mention the time taken in getting back to where you left off, all of which adds up to significant downtime across 8 hours. Define your working hours. A 9-5 schedule works best if you work directly with clients and co-workers. If your work in a different time zone than your own, plan non-work activity around your working hours. If your office allows flexible hours, choose your most productive hours to work. If you’re a morning person, start early and finish by late afternoon. If you are a late riser, work from midday until evening, and shut down before dinner.

Create a workspace

If you can bring home your work there’s no reason you can’t bring the office too. Setup your workspace the way you do at office. Keep work-related items and equipment at hand, including lucky charms and knick-knacks. Spend a few minutes at the end of each session and day to tidy up your workspace.

Keep your workspace isolated from the rest of the house. If you have a room to yourself, keep the door shut. If more than person in the family is working from home, pick different rooms or separate spaces, especially if either or all of you frequently participate in calls or meetings.

Identify and deal with distractions

Distractions at home can slow down work. Identify them and figure out ways to deal with each. Shut the door to minimise interruptions from family, keep personal phone calls short and to the point. You can always pick up a conversation during breaks or after working hours. Don’t log on to social media or check personal email on your work computer. If you can, logoff all social media or switch off notifications on your phone during working hours.

Plan your day as you would in the office

Spend the beginning of each work day preparing a task list and make it realistic. It’s tempting to stuff the list with many little things but you’ll end up getting very little done. Create a ‘Must Do’ list for high priority tasks. Keep the must-do list realistic in terms of the number of tasks and the time required to complete them.

Include work and family tasks in your list and allow the odd change to your list in course of the day, but commit to ticking off every task by end of day. Get handy tips on organising work email the Inbox Zero champion way.

Schedule breaks and stick to them

Nobody goes full steam for the full 8 hours of work. Take as many breaks as you need to. Lunch, coffee and other downtime is necessary and effective, whether you work from home or office. Limit breaks for 10-15 minutes and eat a snack, make an entry into your food diary, stay hydrated or do a short workout from your chair.

Working from home has its upsides – doing things your way and finding better work-life balance – made possible with a little organisation and prioritisation.

By Romeo Coutinho

Rationalist, truth seeker, full time writer, part time dreamer.

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