Maintaining a work life balance can be difficult at the best of times, but what if your work is at home? For freelancers working from home, the lines between work and home life can blur and blend all too easily. Particularly in the digital age when our email accounts wink at us from our smartphones, it can be increasingly difficult to switch off at the end of the working day and transition into your personal time.
When work can be wherever you are, it’s difficult to get away from it. There is always the temptation to check when you get that notification on your tablet, or to work well into the night on a project with a looming deadline. However, this can easily lead to unhealthy work habits and frustrating schedules where there is no longer any distinction between your work life and your home life.
Although cutting out time-consuming commutes and office politics may make it appear easier to attain a reasonable work life balance, often the opposite is true, and work steadily intrudes into your home life instead.
Change In Attitude
We’ve established how difficult it is to ignore your laptop/smartphone/tablet when the working day is done. Now, what’s required is a change in attitude to allow you to switch off once you have reached your daily limit.
Often, we are motivated to continue working due to feeling guilty. This guilt is not as big a factor once we leave the office, as there is little we can do about it once we’re home. However, if your office is at home, then it is easy to give in to the guilt and work the extra hours to finish that report or presentation.
Instead, it is important to make rules for yourself, and stick to them. Decide that you will not check your emails before 8.00am, and that your laptop stays off at the weekend. Let clients know the hours you are available, and stick to it. If you have said you are offline by 6.00pm, and you get an email at 7.00pm, resist the urge to answer it until the following morning when you are back on your working hours.
If you train yourself to get into the mind-set of ‘work time’ and ‘home time’ and refuse to be drawn into ‘work time’ during ‘home time’ and vice versa, you will eventually find it much easier to draw the line between the two.
Manage Your Time
Often, we feel guilty about work during our home hours due to ineffective time management. There is little point in deciding to switch off from work at 6.00pm if you only started doing any work at 4.00pm. If you allow yourself to be distracted by ‘home’ concerns during regular ‘work’ hours, then inevitably work will later spill over into your home life as you have not been as productive as you needed to be during the day.
Avoid time wasters such as constantly checking emails as a source of distraction, or worse, checking social media. When you take a break, make sure that break is away from the computer. Going on a social media site for your break will usually result in you taking a longer break than you intended, and it doesn’t do your eyes any favours either, as they require significant breaks from computer screens.
Work The Way You Want To
When it comes to work life balance, it’s important to remember why you decided to become your own boss in the first place. Chances are it’s so you have control over how you work and when you work. Due to this, you shouldn’t feel restricted to having the same work hours as everyone else. Of course, if you need to be available at certain times to contact a client, that is understandable. However, if you have more flexibility in your working hours, then you should feel free to work the way you want to.
Maybe you do your best work in the wee hours of the morning, or you find yourself at your most productive around 9.00pm. There are no rules saying you can’t work during those times. The important thing is to have a balance, so you don’t find yourself working every hour of the day. Decide what your working hours are and make sure you stick to them. Also, if you have a family or live with a partner, it’s important to take their schedules into account, otherwise you may never see each other – leading to a whole separate problem.
The most important thing about being flexible in your work life balance is ensuring that you have the balance you and your family need.