The benefits of telecommuting are pretty clear: no commute, a significantly more relaxed dress code and the ability to put in a load of laundry on your lunch break. But there are downsides to working from home, too. For instance, when does your workday end, when your work and life occupy the same space?
Research shows that telecommuters often work longer hours than their colleagues who go into the office. That’s good news for your employer, but it could be bad news for you, especially if you don’t know when to call it quits.
If you’re having trouble unplugging from work, these tips can help:
Declare an End to Your Workday
Office workers don’t always punch out at the exact same time every day, but they do tend to have a stopping point in mind. Come 5 or 6 p.m., they’ve got their eyes on the clock and their mind on their commute.
Just because you’re skipping the travel time, doesn’t mean that you should operate without that mental stopping point. Set an end to your day. Otherwise, you’ll keep adding one more thing to your to-do list until you’re working round the clock.
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Enlist the Help of Your Manager
Especially if you work with a lot of other telecommuters, it’s easy to fall into the habit of sending emails and messages after normal working hours. (Let’s be honest: nowadays, you don’t even have to work from home to have this problem. That’s why some companies — and countries! — have started putting limits on after-work emails.)
To draw boundaries and stick to them, you need your boss on your side. Unless it’s explicitly been stated that workers are expected to check in at all hours, don’t assume that you’re required to. Talk to your manager, and see if you can set some limits that will help everyone be happier and more productive.
Fight Tech With Tech
“You can flip the script on always having work in your pocket and make that same technology work in your favor!” writes Rachel Bitte at The Muse. “One way to do this is by using calendar invites to segment your work and personal time.”
That might mean actually entering “family dinner” into your calendar every night at a certain time, or blocking off your favorite TV show or exercise class. Putting these events into the calendar like one of your work commitments should help you remember that these parts of your day are just as important as work. (Yes, even that trashy reality program, if it helps you disconnect and get some balance.)
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
When your workday is over, put your work stuff away. If you’re lucky enough to have a home office, shut the door. If you’re a kitchen table worker, pack things up and put them out of sight. And if your work email or messaging services are on your phone or personal tablet, consider parking those for the evening as well. You deserve a few hours without work-related information streaming into your eyeballs. You’ll be a happier human and a better worker if you make it happen.
Tell Us What You Think
What tips would you add to this list? We want to hear from you! Share your advice in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.