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How to create boundaries when working from home

If you're working from home, you need to draw some boundaries. (Source: Getty)

If you are new to working from home, what might feel like a bit of a “working holiday” can easily end up having you work harder and longer than you ever did when you travelled into the office.

Maintaining healthy boundaries around your hours, workload, physical space and social life can ensure you are productive and happy with your new working arrangement.

It’s easy to blur work boundaries to the point that you end up being “on” all day and night.  As a solopreneur this has been one of my biggest learnings. If I’m not careful, I can end up working 12-16 hours a day, because I get on a roll, and/or lose track of time.

Or there’s the flip side, which is I finish a major project or milestone in a couple of hours and then feel guilty because I’m not working a whole 8 hour day!

Even when you worked at the office, it’s likely you were only really productive for around 3 hours per day. 

Yep. You read that right. 3 hours. I’m sure there are probably days where you were more (or less) productive, and a study done in the UK found that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.

5 of 8 hours at work aren’t spent working

So what are they doing in instead of working?  The most popular unproductive activities listed were:

  1. Checking social media – 44 minutes (spent doing this during working day)

  2. Reading news websites – 1 hour 5 minutes

  3. Discussing out of work activities with colleagues – 40 minutes

  4. Making hot drinks – 17 minutes

  5. Smoking breaks – 23 minutes

  6. Text/instant messaging – 14 minutes

  7. Eating snacks – 8 minutes

  8. Making food in office– 7 minutes

  9. Making calls to partner/ friends – 18 minutes

  10. Searching for new jobs- 26 minutes

These things add up!

This is particularly good news for those of you who are new to working from home.  It’s easy to feel like you’re not “doing” enough when you don’t have to go into an office. Yet this research suggests that if you’re productive for just three hours a day, you’re outputting the same amount as someone in the office for eight hours!

This is not an excuse, however to “slack off”.  The best way to manage this is to be clear on what you want to achieve in the day.  Work according to outcomes, not the clock. You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve when you don’t have the distractions listed above.

Have a dedicated space in your home for working only. (Source: Getty)

Physical boundaries are important

Decide where you are going to do your “work” and stick with that.  If the spare bedroom, the home office, the kitchen table, or the kitchen bench is where you do your work, then don’t vary it on a day to day basis.  

It becomes harder to separate “work time” from “home time” if you are moving your laptop from room to room, or place to place.

You don’t want to “contaminate” your resting place.  If you like to veg out on the couch and binge watch your latest Netflix show in your down time, don’t contaminate that space by now making it a workspace.  You will find that you will be unsuccessful at both. You won’t work well, and you won’t relax well.  

Working from bed and staying in your PJ’s all day might feel like fun, however a bed is not a desk.  Bad posture aside, again you are contaminating a place of rest with work. 

Draw social boundaries too

Finally, friends and family are going to need some boundaries. Just because you are at home doesn't mean you are available.

Drop-ins, lengthy chat’s on the phone, coffee dates can eat up a lot of time, and before you know it, you have lost some valuable working time.

Like physical boundaries, there are work and social boundaries that need to be maintained. 

So, get up, get dressed and get to work!

Donna McGeorge is a speaker, author and mentor who improves workplace effectiveness while challenging thinking on leadership, productivity and virtual work. She is the author of 3 books, ‘Making Work Work’, ‘The 25-Minute Meeting: Half the Time, Double the Impact’ and ‘The First 2 Hours: Making Better Use of Your Most Valuable Time’.

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