Advice and Tips
The experts’ best advice on how you should combine your home office and personal life
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
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.
Here are Cecilie Thunem-Saanum’s best tips:
- Maintain different zones: If you have enough room at home, you should have different zones in order to make clear boundaries between your workspace and other parts of the house.
- Put away your work-related “stuff”: Keep a box, cupboard or shelf where you clear away everything having to do with your job when you’re done with your workday. If you work Monday-Friday, it’s extra important to get rid of it all on Friday so that you don’t have to look at “work stuff” during the weekend.
- Take a walk: Take a short walk before starting to work. Doing so will put you in working mode, and you’ll see other people on their way to work or school. You’ll also have been outside and «seen the world around you» before going inside. Be sure to walk the same route every morning – routine is underrated.
- Stand up every hour: Your brain can become sluggish from constantly sitting in front of your PC screen. To the extent you’re able, you should also schedule breaks between meetings so that you have time to stand up or take care of any other urgent matters.
- Maintain self-imposed deadlines: Set a time when you’ll start your major task of the day, and make sure to only work on this task for a certain period of time. Hold off on writing e-mails and answering the phone until you need to take a break from working on this task.
- Maintain a dress code: By dressing yourself as if you’re going to work in an office, you give yourself the message that you have to work and produce results. Dressing the part puts you in the right frame of mind to work.
- Manage your workday: You don’t have to work from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon as long as you attend your digital meetings. If you have pets, a partner or young children you have to take care of, you can set aside time for them, instead working a few hours in the afternoon or evening. We can often manage our own work rhythm and structure a lot more than we think we can.
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.
Here are Kate Elin Søyland’s best tips:
- Define what «sacred downtime» is to you so that you don’t work 24/7. Otherwise, you’ll never be entirely “logged on” or “logged off”. Defining your downtime also prevents burnout.
- Think through what’s important to you, and check with your co-workers to see what’s on their lists. In this way you can benefit from each other’s experiences. The most important thing is to make some changes and try them out!
- Hang up your schedule somewhere easy to see so that everyone knows when you’re working.
- Remember that if someone in your family’s frustrated, it’s often because their needs aren’t being met. Think in a preventative way and have good talks with them about what they think your ideal family life should look like.
- Have every family member define the boundary between healthy and unhealthy working in a home office situation.
- Have one family day a week where you let go of «everything».
- Log off in order to be able to log on to the most important people in your life.
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.
– 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.
Here are Siren Fadler’s best tips:
- Remember to take a break. Feel free to take a break in the middle of the day and walk for 30 minutes. You’ll work a lot more effectively afterwards.
- Make some rules for yourself. Define when you’re going to work and when you’re not going to work.
- Maintain a clear boundary between work and leisure time. Your family members shouldn’t have any doubt about whether you’re working or not so that they have to keep telling one another to be quiet because you might be working.
- Keep your PC in one location. It shouldn’t be out on the kitchen counter day and night. My PC is always lying in a bag and doesn’t come out of this bag except when I’m working on it.
- Give your brain a rest. Avoid being constantly logged on. If your brain’s on all the time, you won’t get a chance to relax. We have to take time off from work and give our body time for restitution. Think like an athlete; just like they do, we employees need to take a rest from work.
- Avoid being too hard on yourself; 85 percent is good enough.
- Set up regular meetings with your supervisor – even if you’re working a lot from home. Speak with this person about your career goals and get to know them better. Dare to speak up, ask questions and give feedback. It’s easier to grow your network in the digital world without having to follow old-fashioned rules of behavior.
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