How to establish boundaries when working from home (WFH)

by the Southern Cross Team
Monday , 13 April 2020 - 3 minute read
A man walks around while on the phone
Thinking well

As countries around the world strive to keep their communities safe in the midst of Covid-19, many of us find ourselves working from home for the foreseeable future.

While for some this might even be a welcome change, it can also pose its own unique set of challenges – especially how to keep your work life and your home life separate. So here are our top 7 tips to help you establish boundaries when working from home.

1. Keep regular hours

Now that you’re not physically arriving and leaving the office, it can be tempting to change your working hours too. However, not only can this stifle the productivity of your team, it can also make it difficult for your body and brain to establish a routine – which in turn can impact negatively on your stress levels, energy levels, sleep quality, ability to connect with loved ones and your general mood. To maximise the time you have available and avoid burning the candle at both ends, it helps to decide on set hours to do your work - and share this with your team. For example, if you all usually work 9 to 5, make things easy by sticking to those same hours. This will also help to coach your ‘at home’ brain to know when it’s time to work, and when to relax – making it easier for you to unwind and reconnect with loved ones at the end of the working day.

2. Get up, dress up

Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should sleep in ‘til the last minute and lounge about in your PJs all day. Just as you would on any typical work day, make sure you get up at a regular time and get ready for the day ahead. This includes showering, getting dressed and doing your hair. Contrary to the idea that lounging about in your PJs is the best thing about working from home, it can actually blur the line between working and relaxing, making it difficult for your brain to realise when it’s time to focus and achieve your daily goals, and when it’s time to switch off. Dressing for work can also help set the expectation - not only for yourself, but anyone you live with - that it’s time to focus on your work.

3. Take regular breaks

In an office, a warehouse or on the road, wherever you work there are usually daily signals that tell you it’s time for a break. Whether it’s the end of a meeting, the mornings orders being loaded into the delivery truck, or the office lunch hour, these cues tell us it’s time to stop what we’re doing and take some ‘me-time’. Just because you no longer have these visual cues from co-workers doesn’t mean you shouldn’t regularly take little breaks. So schedule your own regular lunch break, and a couple of smaller breaks throughout the day to move around and make a drink. It’ll help you restore mind and body, which will not only improve your mood and productivity as the day goes on – but also help to create a healthier routine.

4. Set limits on ‘play’ time

Your home is full of distractions. There’s the TV, the Internet, family members and of course your phone. If you want others to take your working-from-home situation seriously, you need to discipline yourself as though you were at work – because you are. Most employers put limits on personal phone and Internet use (whether spoken or unspoken), so while some chatting with friends and browsing Facebook is okay, try to act the same way you would if you were in the office. Let your friends know you’ll reply to them after work and avoid staying logged into your personal accounts during work hours, so that you aren’t distracted by notifications. Also, avoid watching TV during the day - even if you’re taking a break - as it can be easy to get sucked in and not realise how much time has slipped away. Instead use your breaks to enjoy lunch with those at home, make that phone call to friends or, better still, get active!

5. Set clear ground rules

Your family or housemates might be thrilled you’ve started working from home and see it as an opportunity to spend more time together. Whilst seeing more of each other can be one of the perks, it can also be one of the hardest challenges as you struggle to set expectations about how your new life working from home should play out. Some of us avoid setting clear boundaries so as not to offend people. However, it may be easier to lay out very clear ground rules for everyone involved right from the start. After all, If you don’t clearly communicate when it’s time to work and when you’re free to give them your undivided attention, how will they know?

6. Set up a designated work area

When working from home, you may feel tempted to multi-task with jobs that need doing around the house. But by establishing a designated workspace in your home and using it consistently, you can prevent potential household distractions, while signaling to your brain (and anyone in the house) that it’s time to get down to business. If you can, try to use a room that isn’t used for any other purpose. If you don’t have a spareroom, try to establish a space that is relatively free from interruptions. For those working in a small apartment or house - set up a space such as the breakfast bar, desk or dining table and ensure you set up and pack down at the beginning and end of each day. Your goal is to create a work haven that allows you to focus when you need to.

7. Stop work at the end of the day

This is the most crucial step for maintaining a proper work/life balance. When the appointed work hours come to an end, it’s time to stop working. Completely. Shut down your computer, leave or pack-up your workspace and don’t return to it until it’s time to work again tomorrow. This consistent action will help your brain realise when it’s time to work and when it’s time to relax - and help your family and friends know too. It can be easy to make the mistake of carrying on with a task until it’s finished. But for the sake of your relationships - and your own mental wellbeing - the most important thing you can do is stop working at the end of the day.


Matthews, K. (2018). How To Maintain Boundaries Between Work And Home When You Telecommute.

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