Four tips for work-life balance when working at home

If you are your own boss and/or work from home, you can keep your work and life in balance by sticking to these simple rules: 1) schedule in regular time off and stick to it; 2) when at work, operate in ‘work mode’; 3) when you leave work, switch off ‘work-mode’ and back into ‘life-mode’; and 4) use the ‘closed-door’ policy.

1. Schedule regular time off and stick to it

Decide which evenings, or weekends, every week, that you will not work. Importantly, stick to that regular ‘time off’ schedule. If a job or deadline comes up that makes it impossible to take your usual time off, work until the job is finished and the deadline has been met, but then make sure you take time off in lieu of those days or evenings that you worked through.

Schedule in a week or two of leave during the best times for your business for you to be away. Unless your business is always very busy, book your leave during a time when there is a natural lull in business (for me this is January or July). You need those breaks not only to give you a rest but also to give you space to review how your business is going. You can then ‘regroup’ your mind upon your return and run your business better.

2. When at work, operate in ‘work-mode’

If you work in service provision (e.g. you’re an editor, accountant or consultant), you need an office that is separate from the rest of your home.  If your business needs a workshop, that will be your separate work space (which I’ll call an ‘office’. Don’t work in the lounge room, veranda or pub. Use your office to do your work in and don’t use it for anything else.

Whenever you enter your office, switch your brain onto ‘work-mode’ whereby you suddenly change from your usual self into the professional business person you need to be to conduct your work.

As a general rule, treat your phone as a work tool that belongs in your office, and don’t answer voice calls or emails unless you’re in your office. Obviously, you’ll sometimes need to use your phone outside the office but when you do:

  • make sure you are in a suitably quiet place (e.g. not in a mall or a busy cafe)
  • don’t forget to switch your brain ‘on’ into work-mode before speaking. And ‘off’ again after the call/email.

3. Learn to switch off

If you work at home, you need to be able to switch your brain out of ‘work-mode’ and into ‘life-mode’ each time you finish work.

You need to make sure what happens at work stays at work, so your life outside work is balanced.

If something at work has upset you, or you need someone else’s point of view about a work matter, have that discussion if you are able to do so without breaching confidentiality. However, in general work issues should be left in the office behind that closed door.

For many years, my number one challenge of running my scribing and editing business was ‘switching off’ my work-brain so I could relax after finishing work. Finally, I have learned how to do it pretty well.

Here are a couple of tools that I use for switching off work and switching into life each time I finish work. Note: your work may be more or less stressful than mine and your tools for unwinding may be different.

  • Focus your eyes on something distant such as a treetop or mountaintop or skyscraper against the sky, and look at that tall distant thing until your work-eyes refocus. Watching a tree, when your long-distance focus comes back you’ll see the leaves become clearer and the topmost leaves standing out in sharp 3-D contrast to the sky. You have forgotten about work, and switched off work, and switched back into normal life.
  • Other ways to switch yourself back into ‘life-mode’ are to just quietly with your eyes closed and try to not think at all (some people call this meditation); or just sit down and having a cup of tea by yourself in the lounge room or garden or anywhere that is a peaceful space for you. Don’t think about work and don’t be in a hurry, just for that five or ten minutes. Then switch back into normal life.

4. Closed-door policy

Keep your office door when you are at work to lock your non-work life out, and when you are not at work to keep your work locked in that office. To find out about how to establish and maintain this policy, go to: The closed-door policy

Other challenges of working from home

If you’re working from home, and especially if you’re freelancing or operating a home-based business, you will have come up against a lot of challenges that you may still be struggling with.

These articles may be helpful:

Image:  Copyright SW Kane

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