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British researchers found that working remotely is associated with greater job satisfaction and commitment to the employer. But there is a price to pay because our homes become enmeshed with our work, according to a report published in New Technology, Work and Employment.
“Traditionally, we have had spatial boundaries made for us by offices, shops and factories, which mean that home and other places of leisure are separated from work,” said Alan Felstead, a research professor in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University in Wales. “However remote work blurs those lines and workers have to reinstate boundaries. That is often why it is difficult [for employees] to switch off.”
Another issue these days is the ubiquity of smart phones and other devices that can keep a worker tethered to her employer 24/7.
“Technology definitely plays a crucial role in allowing spatial boundaries to be removed,” Felstead said. “The difficulty is that the smart phone doesn’t know when you are at work and when you are at home —unless, of course, the off switch is used.”
"Ultimately, it's about boundaries."
Cardiff researchers examined survey responses from a total of more than 15,000 British workers. Those who worked from home were more likely to go beyond a normal work day, to put in more effort than was required. They were also more likely to have difficulty switching out of work mode and unwinding.
"Ultimately, it’s all about boundaries," said Randy Simon, an expert on work-life balance and a psychologist in private practice in Montclair, N.J.
“I tell clients who work from home that they really need to compartmentalize,” Simon said. “For example, make sure there is a separate place in your home for work, so that your whole home isn’t synonymous with work.”
Here are a few more tips for people who work from home:
1. If you don't have a home office, put your work away at the end of the day.
If you don’t have room for a home office, then make sure you put away all work-related papers at the end of the day. If the dining room table was used as a desk, then it goes back to being a dining room table at the end of your work day, Felstead said.
2. Set limits for when you're available to your boss.
“If you get an email from somebody at work and you see it at 10 p.m., it’s sometimes better not to respond even if you have a response,” Simon said. “If you answer you’re just reinforcing that person to keep reaching out to you.”
That also goes for family members who might be sharing your home during work hours, Simon said.
“Sometimes if you’re sitting and reading something, it looks like you’re available when you’re really in the middle of something,” she added. “You need to tell everyone that you can’t be interrupted and that you’ll be available later.”
3. Set up a work schedule with set hours.
“Half an hour before the end of your day, start putting things in order,” Simon said. “Do your filing. Save copies of what you need to."
Communicate these times to your manager so they are aware and in the loop.
4. Give yourself some time at the end of the day to mentally transition.
If you worked in an office, this would occur on your commute home, Simon said. Try to bring that ritual into your work-from-home life, maybe you unwind by scrolling through Instagram or reading a book for 20 minutes. Find something that helps you step away from work, and continue to do that every day!
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