The nine boundaries you need when you work from home

Love the idea of working from home, but find the home/work lines are blurring? Read the nine boundaries you need when you work from home.

Working from home can be a mixed blessing; the lack of commute can offer real benefits. Time and money saved commuting not to mention lower stress levels.

But there are downsides, too: according to research from ACAS, managers recognise the benefits of flexible working, but worry that these employees may be less ambitious or career-focused than their peers because they work reduced hours.

It can also be harder to concentrate if you are working from home and don’t have a designated office area, find it hard to avoid the fridge or are easily distracted.

The nine boundaries you need when you work from home

But there is a way to support working from home which will support your career while also allowing you to make the most of the extra freedom. You can do this by setting nine boundaries – personal rules or guidelines – around your working day. Here they are.

1) Establish a work environment

If you don’t have access to a separate home office or room, decide on a space which can be kept for work. A fold down desk or modern bureau would work well. If the kitchen table is also the boardroom, make sure you won’t be disturbed.

2) Set clear work hours

The working day doesn’t begin when you wake up or end when you sleep so there is no need to check your phone or PC before 8am or after 8pm unless your job specifically calls for anti-social hours.

3) Isolate work technology

Your work emails should be directed to a different email address to that you use for family or friends. Have two ringtones – one for phone numbers attached to family or friends, the other for work contacts.

4) Control your inbox

Set your computer to receive emails at 30min intervals. If you are waiting for something urgent, you can always use a refresh button.

5) Technical support

Most flexible workers will be in charge of their own computers so make sure you have the number of IT support. Don’t rely on your employer to fix problems from a distance. Be proactive.

6) Take break

Make sure your working day includes a period of exercise, a meal eaten away from your screen, adequate tea and water breaks and regular chances to stand up. It’s very easy when you work alone to forget how often office workers move around quite naturally.

7) Speak to an outsider

We all need a water-cooler moment; a chance to recharge our batteries and talk about something other than our current project. Online forums and social media are often used to fill this void, but nothing beats a live human interaction. Why not combine this with your daily exercise by meeting a friend for a walk at lunchtime.

8) Don’t be lonely

Enlist a mentor or a peer (outside your workplace) for a mutually supportive relationship, where you can share worries and compare successful behaviours. Perhaps find a business coach. Working alone doesn’t have to be lonely.

9) Don’t feel guilty

Ask your partner, children, friends, even your boss for feedback on your work life balance. You may be surprised to hear how hard they see you work – and even that they think you can afford to take more time off.

Read more about boundaries

Need more advice on setting your boundaries when working from home? You’ll find plenty of tips in these articles:

Victoria Lambert is the author of Boundaries: How to Draw the Line in Your Head, Heart and Home (HarperCollins, £12.99) with Jennie Miller, a psychotherapist and couples expert.

Photo by Anthony Tran