Balance personal and professional needs when working from home. Here’s how.

In 2018, there were 4.3 million remote workers in the USA. 40% more US companies offered remote work in 2018 than in 2015. Any guesses what that number is right now, given the lockdown? Anyone that can, is working from home. The thing that is different – everyone is home, and rightfully so. Spouses, roommates, kids, pets. What does this mean for boundaries?

“Abnormal life has begun, so we must maintain as much normalcy as possible,” says Guy Winch, New York-based Psychologist. “And it’s important to realize that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to set up conditions, habits, and rituals that will get us through that.” Here are some things you can try:

  1. Offer the same courtesies of a co-worker. It might feel like a casual hangout, sitting across the dining table from your partner and working. But the pandemic is here for weeks, and we have to remain productive, focused, as well as motivated. Take the time to talk to your partner/ roommate about work rules – where will each person work, what happens when calls come, what timings suit you both, what does disruption look like, and how to manage chores. At the end of the day, find out from the other person about what worked and what didn’t. You would be surprised how far this mindful chat will go, in helping you create necessary boundaries.
  1. For kids, rely on structure. Children thrive on routine. It gives them predictability and safety, and they know what to do or expect. With the school routine gone, their energy and behavior would be tough to manage. So, create a timetable where they are engaged for blocks of time like 60-90 mins. Schedule naps. Set playtime or hangout time with them. Amanda Abel, a pediatric psychologist from Melbourne, says, school-age children have improved self-control and an understanding of boundaries and time. “Use a timer to show children the passing of time while you’re working or creating a visual schedule for the day. Set up some house rules with the kids so they know what the behavioral expectations are during this time.” Like with your partner, having rules with kids is important.
  1. Take stock of your reality. While we might want to work from 9 AM to 5 PM, it might not be possible to get that kind of focused time. There are family needs, home demands, noise, breaks, etc. So, get real with what is possible. Plan your day in chunks of time when you need to work, and let your family know. Confirm project deadlines with your manager and negotiate what’s possible. Predict the best call times. And, keep re/setting norms of working from home with your team and your family. Else you will fail to meet expectations.

You might feel under pressure in the given lockdown situation. But recognize that we are all in the same boat. Speak up, share your needs, and let’s work through it together.

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