Work-Life Balance when Work and Life are at Home

Its Sunday, yet I’m thinking about work, and I’m writing about work, and I’m sitting in my office at my work computer. When you work at home, it’s hard to get a sense of balance and to learn how to effectively go from one to another.

This is the hardest part of running a virtual company from home – I could quite literally work every waking minute.

This is also the thing I struggle with the most – just ask my husband. Wait, don’t ask him! You’ll get an even uglier picture than what I’m going to paint and run screaming back to the office. Please don’t. Keep your social distance.

So from one that struggles with this concept, let’s talk about how to try to make it work.

Routine?

If I struggle with work-life balance, I struggle with routine even more. That’s partly why I do what I do; it’s a new adventure every day. All of the experts will tell you that in order to be successful you have to have routine. I’ve read the books and can give you the titles if you want – heck I can send you my copy.

I. Can’t. Do. Routine.

Why? Because life is different every day. My work creates this environment. Working from home allows the flexibility to operate in this space.

Confession, I’m also ADHD (diagnosed before there was an H and before “girls could get ADD” – HA! proved ’em wrong even when I was 7). This is my blessing and curse-but that’s probably a whole other article, or series!

Even with living a different day daily, I do get “ready” in the morning – to what degree is determined by what’s on my calendar. (Before the virus) I get my kids ready and out the door for school, and I do eat something for breakfast (usually, sometimes I forget until it would be mostly considered brunch). I also do something to move my body at some point in the day – a walk, a Beachbody workout, or a round of Zumba or Just Dance on the Wii. Most days I also eat lunch (sometimes not until 3:30 when I realize that the kids are getting out of school soon!) That’s all I commit to for “routine.”

Even without routine…I. Get. Things. Done.

These days, it’s pretty much the same except that I’m not getting a kid off to school, she’s earning her wifi or doing e-learning days.

My advise, and it’s not scientifically based, is to do what works for you and your family. There are things that must get done every day. If it matters to you what order and when they occur, great! If it doesn’t matter to you, that’s great too.

Personal & Work Space

The best part of work from home? The Commute! The worst part of work-from-home? Access to the office!

The primary way I try to separate work and personal life is by separating the spaces. I have a dedicated home office. If I’m in there, I’m working or doing something related to work.

Generally, My kids aren’t allowed in the office. Sometimes they want to be with me when I need to work in the evening or on a weekend. In my old house we built a space in what would have been a closet (not a walk-in) where my daughter could read, draw on a whiteboard, and, many times, sleep while I work. We don’t have that luxury in this house, but I still manage to keep the kids close when they need to be…prime example is occuring while I write this (see the picture – worth more than 1000 words! And yes, I’m still in my pajama pants, its Sunday morning at 8:00!).

With schools closed, I’m attempting to instill the separation for my daughter too. She now has a work space in my office to do school work. Two exceptions: reading she can do on the couch (who doesn’t want to snuggle up with a book and a blanket on the couch?) and gym has to be done anywhere other than my office! I’m still waiting for the day my husband calls and says “I’m bringing my computer home – make room!” He’s still going into work every day (ooooh, do I have my own thoughts on that! But, those are at-home thoughts not to be aired online!).

Will this work for everyone? Probably not, but if you can at minimum set up space that is for work for a set period in a day then becomes family space – marked by a change in arrangement or some other visual/physical change – I believe that you can achieve the same type of physical shift from Office to Home.

Ideas for physical change:

  1. If working from the dining room table: move all work off of the table and put it out of site (cover it with a blanket if you have to!
  2. If working from a folding/temporary table: fold it away. If that’s too much, move it off to the side of the room or into a different space.
  3. If working from your bedroom: put it all away. Put it in a drawer, under the bed, in a different room, or in the closet. Working from the bedroom you’re going to really have to be purposeful in how you separate work-life-sleep balance.

Transition Time

Ok, this is the real kicker for work-from-home. In an office setting, you have the commute to transition from work mode to home mode. When you work from home, you don’t have the commute. One of the perks, right? This is where it can be a downer. Be intentional in creating transition time from work to family.

Back in the real world, in a parallel universe, I had a kid coming home around 4:00. This was my cue that my day would be wrapping up soon and that I needed to start wrapping up work. If I have late-afternoon calls, I know that I have to wrap up the day after my call so I prepare ahead of the call. I don’t stop working at 4:00, she comes in gets her snack and starts homework while I wrap up my day.

The end-of-day wrap up is only one element though, there’s also the mental preparation needed to switch from one persona (work) to another (parent/spouse). I have an alarm that goes off on Fridays at 5:15 so that I purposefully get up, leave the office, and do a transition activity (music. walk, audible, call a friend) so that I am ready to be in family mode when the rest of my family gets home and they are ready for the weekend.

Since I don’t have a kid coming home after school and we don’t have evening activities now, I’m going to be setting that alarm to every day so that we (both me and my daughter – the rest of the family as they join us) can all have this transition time.

What happens if I don’t have the transition time? Well….this is where I’m glad my husband and kids don’t get a say in what I write! But, in all honesty, because that’s what we all need right now, I’m not in a great head space. I’m still thinking about the problems I’m trying to solve with clients, I’m not “present” with my kids, and I’m pretty grouchy. I need time to gather my patience and muster energy reserves to make it through the evening. Sometimes, its just not pretty. If you can make it pretty every evening after working from home all day – drop me a line, we need to go into business selling the secret sauce (if it’s even legal!)

Until then, here’s to supporting your local wineries, breweries, distilleries, and restaurants that deliver. They’re going to get us through this. And my favorite…my local winery hangout @mallowrun is doing a drive-thru today to get cases at wholesale cost. If you need me after noon today, I’ll be in their line (they’ve had 40 minute waits each day this weekend!).

Stay healthy and safe,

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