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3 Ways to Set Boundaries Between Work and Home

Written exclusively for bümo by Jenna Mulherin, career prep coach and Founder of Own the Interview.

Me time is not self-indulgent. It’s a necessity. And remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Working from home is tough enough as it is. Then, add in the kids, the homeschooling, and the ever-changing learning we’re all doing from the pandemic — it can all feel overwhelming. I often ask, are we working from home or are we living at work? To support you in feeling a little more grounded, here are 3 ways to set boundaries between work-life and home-life.

Set Boundaries Between Work and Home

Set Expectations for What you Need

I know, easier said than done. You don’t want to disappoint, but it’s important that you let the people around you know what they can expect from you; that includes your boss, clients, friends, and family. Part of setting clear expectations for others is first understanding what your own expectations are. This is an area I find most challenging because it requires me to SLOW DOWN. What I’ve found helpful in the past is making time to ask myself the following questions:

  • What time am I willing to take my first and last meeting for the day?

  • How quickly will I respond to emails?

  • When would I prefer a phone call vs. a text? Or neither? 

  • What are my non-negotiables during the day? A few examples include lunch and dinner with family, 8-9 AM school set up for the day, and an evening meditation.

Once you’ve determined what your expectations are, create the space to share and answer any questions. Start by letting them know your WHY. Sharing the why will support the buy-in from others. I promise this exercise and action will bring a lot of relief.

Set BoundariesBetween Work and Home

Practice Saying No

You’ve set your expectations, you’ve shared them with the world and a week later, old habits start to creep in. You’re answering emails lying in bed, you’re taking phone calls during lunch, you’ve given up on your evening meditation practice. Sound familiar?

Now you’re at a crossroads and you have a choice. You can choose to allow others to dictate your schedule and when they have access to you, or you can be a stand for you and what’s best. 

The great thing about your life is that you’re the CEO of YOU. With the choices you make and the boundaries you’ve set, you’ll teach others how to treat you. If you continue to accept the 8 AM meetings, then the 8 AM meetings will continue to pop up. 

This was one of my greatest lessons returning from maternity leave. I learned it’s not enough to set my expectations. In order for them to be met, I need to also be equally intentional with my yes’s and my no’s.

No one will stand for you and your balance as great as you can and need to be for yourself. 

Make Time For Yourself

In line with the topic of saying no, I bet you’ve heard of the saying “put on your oxygen mask first.” I love my family, friends, career, the people I work with, and I know I could go days or weeks without stopping to ask myself what I need right now. Do my body and mind feel rested? When’s the last time I was alone? 

Creating space for ‘me time’ is said to reduce stress, support prioritization, stimulate your mind, and improve relationships (just to name a few). Like defining expectations, first understand what is the ‘right’ amount of alone time you need. Do you need a daily walk, an evening, an entire weekend? 

Waking up early in the mornings before my family is up is one of the ways I create time for me. I putt around, make a coffee, and often read and write… in silence.
Consider thinking about your schedule. We’re awake for an average of 15 hours a day. How do you want to spend those hours? Whether that’s 50% work, 40% family, and 10% me-time, or 40% work, 40% family, 20% me-time, schedule time for yourself and balance where you’re spending energy. Me-time is not self-indulgent. It’s a necessity! Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

If you take away one thing from this article, leave with this. It’s up to you to adjust what’s not working by implementing boundaries. Setting expectations, asking for what you need, practicing saying no, and make time for you. These are all things we must do as parents, colleagues, and partners to live a balanced life, especially during a time like this. So go — pack-up that makeshift kitchen office and place your work out of sight until tomorrow comes. Keep in mind when your life works, work works.

 

About the Author

Jenna Mulherin, Career Preparation Coach with an HR Designation and Founder of Own the Interview. 

Instagram: @owntheinterview

Website: Own the Interview

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