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Kate Elin Søyland
Kate Elin Søyland, photo Liubov Mikheeva

Advice and Tips

The experts’ best advice on how you should combine your home office and personal life

Published: Nov. 30 2021

Drawing a line between your job and personal life isn’t always easy when you’re working from home. When should you actually «log off» of working? And how do you take care of your family’s needs?

In a home office situation the boundaries between work and leisure can easily become blurred.

It’s a challenge for many of us to be so organized that we don’t end up answering our phone and e-mail at all hours of the day and night.

We’ve spoken with a time management expert, family therapist and career coach: Here are their best tips on how we should manage our work and leisure time:

The home office expert: Organize your workday

Cecilie Thunem-Saanum
Cecilie Thunem-Saanum, foto Anne Elisabeth Næss

Course instructor Cecilie Thunem-Saanum is an expert on time management. She believes that working from home gives you a great opportunity to manage your own workday. The trick to doing this is to be very conscious of how you organize it.

– As long as you don’t have a full day of meetings, you don’t need to work from 8 to 4. I usually take a long break around 2 o’clock when my children come home from school. And then I often work for a couple of hours when they’re at sports practice in the afternoon or evening, she explains.

Another example of taking a break could be if you have a dog that has to get outside, you can take it for a long walk at lunchtime.

Thunem-Saanum also thinks it’s important that you change your clothes as if you’re going to work in an office.

– This sends a signal to both your brain and the people you’re living with – and helps you get in the right frame of mind to work. I like putting on high heeled shoes and a silk blouse when I’m going to be working from home. When I take my high heels off, this is a sign to my kids that my workday’s over. I change into a t-shirt, too, she says.

Thunem-Saanum also advises scheduling some «do-nothing time» into your day, similar to what you’d do in an office setting. Take time to walk around a little and get yourself a cup of coffee or tea before starting to work. And stand up every hour and stretch to put some variety into your day.

She keeps her printer on the other side of the house. Whenever she has to go get a printout, she has to pass through the kitchen. There’s always a glass of water standing on the counter there that she makes sure to drink; then, she fills it up again and puts it back on the counter.

– But if you start working on a major task for the day, and you’re lucky enough to enter into a deep mental work zone, it’s smart to “monotask” and work uninterrupted. If you work steadily up to a self-imposed deadline, you can double or triple your productivity level.

The family therapist: Talk with one another about possibilities

Family therapist Kate Elin Søyland runs a private practice called Åpen Dialog in Sandnes and believes in the importance of talking and listening to one another’s thoughts and suggestions.

– If you live with other people, it’s important that everyone’s allowed a chance to speak. If someone in the family thinks that it’s not okay that you’re multitasking at the coffee table while they’re watching a favorite show on TV, when you’re thinking that everything’s fine and that «it’s only work e-mails», things have probably gone too far, explains Søyland.

In order to find a balance between your work and personal life, she advises you to try and find out what throws you off-balance. What steals your energy for working? What stresses you out? What is it that’s wearing you out regarding your job or your relationships at home?

– Find out what your most meaningful values are when you’re at work and when you’re home with your family. If you don’t do this and get «squeezed» between the two, you risk continuing on the same path without having anything function anywhere.

– You’ll only achieve balance when you stop flying solo and start listening to and showing respect for your family’s feelings. Don’t let silent irritation start to build up or argue about things; instead, try out some of their suggestions to see if they help, she advises.

The career coach: Train yourself in self-management

Currently employed at NAV, career coach Siren Fadler has several years of experience in personal management coaching and career counselling. She believes that digitalization has created a flatter structure in the workplace because it allows more equal dialogue and makes it easier to contact anyone at work.

Siren Fadler
Siren Fadler

– These days we can network all over the entire world from home instead of having to travel to a meeting, which for many people involves a lot of extra hassle. This is because you have to have childcare or someone to watch your dog, and there’s an enormous number of things that have to be organized. Not having to do this gives you a great feeling of freedom so that you can manage your own workday, says Fadler.

She herself likes to take a 30-minute fast walk in the middle of the day, noticing that she works a lot more efficiently afterwards.

– And if some morning I wake up not feeling my best, working from home goes just fine, she says.

According to Fadler, the most important thing to do if you’re in a new hybrid work situation is to get good at self-management. We have to train ourselves in creating structures and frameworks so we don’t get stressed out.

– The lack of boundaries between people’s work and personal lives makes it easier for many of them to work all the time – and as a result of all this, they become easily overwhelmed. All of us need to take a break from working. Athletes value rest and recovery for their bodies, and employees need to value these as well. You have to make some rules for yourself and define when you’re going to work and when you’re not going to work.

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