“I work from home.”
It’s a statement that conjures up images of days lounging on a couch, decked out in comfy pants, latte in hand, perusing a laptop.
The truth is, working from home presents its own unique set of challenges. For example, working from home is wonderful for privacy and solitude, but it breeds isolation. The initial relief of working alone can turn into pure loneliness.
A good way to avoid loneliness and burnout is to approach working from home with the same limits and boundaries as someone who works in a physical office space. Defining work time and personal time will prevent you from working too much and not interacting enough, two factors that contribute to isolation.
Below, some tips on how to create healthy and defined boundaries for your virtual career.
1. Define Work Hours
Get hired, get a schedule and then stick to it. Set auto responders in email and instant messenger that list your work hours. Your colleague in Russia may not know it’s 3 A.M. your time, and a green light on your Slack channel says “I’m available.” At the end of your shift, log out and power down.
2. Get Out of Bed
If you have a wireless connection and a tablet, you are good to go for most virtual roles. This means you can literally sit up, power up and get to work. Although this sounds great at first, this is the key reason virtual workers develop bad habits. All those cartoons about the slovenly misfit that never leaves the house? There’s some truth to that, unfortunately. Every day: get up, get dressed and go to work, even if the office is in your living room. Go out to lunch, run errands and be present in the world. Being plugged into the virtual world doesn’t mean you disconnect from the real one.
3. Create a Work Space
No matter how large or small your living space, defining your home office is important. Once you have defined your workspace, stock the area with the tools you need to do your job. Decorate the space in the same way you would a work cubicle. Define this space as off limits unless you are “at work.” The physical act of moving to a workspace in your home helps mentally shift gears from personal time to work time.
4. Away With the Apps
Now that most software programs have easily downloadable apps, it’s tempting to start downloading work apps like crazy. This can become a slippery slope, particularly if your cell phone does double time as personal and professional. Unless you need to have a certain app on your phone, it’s better to restrict work apps and programs to a work specific device. This is the same for devices in general – having a work laptop, and personal laptop keeps you focused on work or personal matters, and separates the two.
5. Find a Tribe
Sometimes you just need to be with people. If you’re tired of being alone in your workspace, check out shared office spaces in your community. It’s a great way to meet other virtual workers, network and commiserate on the highs and lows. As more workers choose to work in a virtual environment, there’s an increasing demand for workspaces where people can go to be around… people.