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8 Work-from-Home Habits to Help Separate Work and Personal Time

A woman looking exhausted while working from home at the kitchen table.

Whether you’re new to working from home or have been doing it for years, you’ve probably noticed the line between work and relaxation is often blurred. Here’s how to set healthy boundaries, even if your office is in your living room.

Many people think working from home is a blissful, relaxing escape from office life. While remote work definitely has its perks, it’s also pretty common to find yourself working a lot more than you did at the office. Before you know it, you’re checking your work email well past midnight and tackling projects on your days off.

If work feels like it’s taking over your life, cultivate these habits to help you get your freedom back!

Wear Work Clothes

If you work from home, it doesn’t make much sense to put on slacks and dress shoes every morning. Still, there’s some value in wearing clothes that are different from those you wear while relaxing.

They can still be comfortable, though. For example, consider changing out of your pajamas and into some leggings before you start work. Then, when the day is over, you can change back into your PJs.

Your “work clothes” might not even look much different, but changing before and after work helps you maintain the boundary between work and downtime.

Have a Start and End Time

Many remote workers are in charge of when they start and end work. However, this lovely flexibility can sometimes lead to you working on and off all day and night.

Picking a specific time to start and stop work will help. If you do your best work after 2 p.m., maybe that’s the right time to start. You can even start at different times on different days. No matter what schedule you choose, specific start and end times create clear boundaries.

Ease into Work

When the start time you’ve chosen arrives, don’t feel like you have to jump right into the day’s biggest tasks. Like an athlete, give yourself a little time to warm up before tackling your most challenging projects.

For example, consider starting the day with a few relatively easy, but necessary, activities, like filling out your timesheet. The success you feel after crossing these simple things off your list will give you some momentum for the harder stuff.

Perhaps you’d rather take a few minutes to settle in before you log into your work chat app, so you don’t have to start your day being bombarded by messages.

When the day is over, you can also wrap up with a few simple tasks to ease out of work. This will help you transition from work to personal time.

Manage Your Notifications

Work communication apps, like Slack, are wonderful. However, when you’re off the clock and notifications are still pouring in, it’s difficult to forget about work, even for a little while.

Luckily, you can easily change the settings on apps like these. Turn off all notifications on weekends, vacations, and holidays, so you won’t be tempted to check messages and get sucked back into work.

Stick to Designated Workspaces

A young woman typing on her laptop at a desk next to a fluffy orange cat perched on a windowsill.
Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock

You probably have a specific place in your home that serves as your office, even if it’s not an entire room. However, remote workers often find themselves also working in bed, at the kitchen table, or even out on the patio.

It’s actually a good idea to switch up your workspace from time to time. However, you’ll be able to create better boundaries if you designate a few specific places in your home for work.

For example, you could limit yourself to your desk for focused tasks, and a comfy living-room chair for lower-effort work. This gives you an option to switch things up when you feel like it.

Having designated workspaces will make it easier not to think about work when you’re away from those areas.

Take Breaks

Sure, there might be days when you have to work through lunch, but try not to make it an everyday thing.

Take at least half an hour away from work each day to eat lunch, and sprinkle in a few 10- or 15-minute coffee breaks, as well. These short but proper breaks will help you refresh your focus, and make it easier to finish the day’s tasks.

Make Post-Work Plans

Even if you can’t go out and see people in person at the moment, try to schedule a virtual happy hour or a family game night for shortly after your workday ends.

When you have social plans to look forward to, it gives you an incentive to finish your work on time so you can actually relax for the rest of the day.

Buy Work-Specific Supplies

Nice office supplies that are fun to use can be a small, but effective, way to stay focused. Using work-specific supplies also alerts your mind that it’s work time, and that it’s time to chill when you put them away.

Get yourself a nice new planner, a fancy pen, or a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Anything you need or can use during an average workday will do.

Take out your supplies when it’s time to start work, and then hide them away when you’re done. Your mind will then associate these things with work, helping you tap into your focus when it’s time to start the day. When you put them away, you’ll also put away your mental connection to work.

When you associate only certain times, spaces, and items with work, it’s far easier to separate your professional and private time. Even if you don’t have a separate room you can use as a home office, these tips will help you maintain clear boundaries.

Looking for some inspiring new spaces to enjoy while you work from home? Check out how you can create a home office outdoors!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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