Career & Money

Experiencing Overwork While Working From Home? 7 Ways You Can Set Boundaries

Striking work-life balance just got trickier, but there are ways to keep these two things in line

The months spent adjusting to working from home are a lot like the first few months at a new job. There’s a lot to get used to: new team dynamics to learn, new things you realize about yourself as an employee and new routines you have to form.

With this shift comes the need to re-establish boundaries. What do these even look like now that work takes place at home? When personal and professional lives get jumbled in the same space? As companies and teams settle into new work arrangements, what does promoting work-life balance even mean?

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The answers hint back at how boundaries can make all the difference. Setting them is not only healthy but necessary. Because when things go back into full swing, it’s easy to make compromises at home to try and even out the score with wins at work. Still, there’s no reason you have to get lost in the shuffle and succumb to overwork. Here are seven ways to sidestep that WFH pitfall:

Now that work life and home life share the same space, take time to reidentify your priorities.

The intent to draw the line somewhere in the name of work-life balance should come with this quick self-check. Identify at least three aspects of home life and work life, respectively that are most important to you (therefore cannot be compromised), somewhat important (therefore open to some kind of compromise) and lastly, not important at all (menial tasks that are time-consuming but low-impact). Only then can you know for certain where to draw the line between essential and non-essential for both the personal and the professional.

Do you want to use this WFH period to acquire a new skill? Do you want to make sure you spend more time with family? There are no right and wrong answers. The shots are yours to call.

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Identify the source of overwork.

While you’re taking the time to do this quick scan of your new WFH environment, consider these two questions: When did overwork begin for you? What are the triggers that have led to the overwork? The answers could be anything from combining home chores with additional work responsibilities to a new project you’ve been assigned to lead.

This is where you get to identify whether the source of work is something you have the power to eliminate. If not, it may be time to ask for help (which is always A-OK to do).

Don’t be afraid to ask for support.

There are times where members in a team associate voicing out concerns with not being a team player. But this is a work myth. It just moves an employee further away from having healthy, much-needed conversations with teammates, which are crucial now that working from home means no two “office” experiences are ever the same.

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In a professional manner, communicate your work concerns to people in your team (namely, your boss). At the end of the day, work hard but work smart is the end goal here. So if the team can offer up ways to meet that goal, the better it is for everyone. Ask for help—be it tech support, time off or assistance from another teammate.

Honor your lunch and/or afternoon breaks.

It almost goes without saying, yet there are plenty of people who still bring their work with them to the dining table. During your breaks, park your work things to the side and be present instead. Use your time away from work to tune out. Don’t take calls at noon. Don’t answer emails during lunch. Get up and actually have your meals in designated eating areas.

Do not entertain work-related emails and texts after office hours. 

Here’s another thing to be unapologetic about: attending to your work tasks strictly within your work hours. Anything that comes in after 6PM can wait until the next day. 

Of course, this depends on the industry you work in. The case is certainly different for a person working on-call as opposed to someone working a fixed nine-to-six. Still, it’s a rare occurrence that work requests come in at 7PM along with demands they be attended to straight away. This is seen as unprofessional—but on the part of the person sending the late-night emails or texts.

The same goes for requests made after office hours on a Friday. They can wait till Monday.

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Set physical boundaries.

There’s a time for everything and there’s a place for everything. This is why claiming a designated work area at home is important: it ensures that your work life doesn’t make its way into the rest of your personal life. That clear demarcation still allows you to “escape” work and get your mind off it even if it now takes place at home. 

Start by making your bedroom a work-free zone where you don’t bring your work laptop or work phone.

Offsetting hours is still valid.

So are your vacation leaves. So use them!

Just because leisurely trips are off the table for now, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to take a day or two off. Take a breather, have a mental health day, or schedule a staycation with family. Part of striking work-life balance while WFH is ensuring you take a step back from work. 

Up next, find out how you can get the most out of working from home. Tap for ‘5 Tips to Stay Productive When Working From Home.’

Art Alex Lara

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