Home working boundaries

Rosie shares rules & tips for home working boundaries in a small space

Rosie Slosek - home working boundariesI was intrigued by Rosie Slosek’s comment on last week’s blog ‘Little things matter when you work from home‘ and asked her to elaborate on how she establishes home working boundaries:

What’s your living situation, Rosie?

I’m an ex-pat country girl from Nottinghamshire who now lives in a one bed flat in London with my business partner. Fortunately, I have woods, parks and acres of Hampstead Heath within 10 minutes walk. Between us, we run 3 businesses from the office living room which means a lot of negotiation and boundary drawing between home and work.

How do you keep work separate from your personal and home life?
Determination to make it work. I use a lot of rules and tools. Rules like, ‘the sofa is home space except in emergencies’, the (shared) desk is ‘the office’, the tulip mug is only to be used by me and only when working and it has a special place in the cupboard away from the home mugs. Tools are apps like Focus Booster, a Pomodoro Technique app which I use to separate work and fun. It not only keeps me productive but I feel work social media IS work, and then my break IS play, for example. It is difficult, however I try very hard to not do/think work on the weekend unless there is a deadline. It’s very easy to end up always in work mode in your head, and that isn’t good for anyone.
 
How successful are your methods?
Mostly they work well. I admit to introducing new rules when my partner and I have conflicting deadlines. For example, we reserve the right to ignore each other and be rude without taking it personally. The only real problem is the lack of space. It’s difficult to be active enough during the day without stairs to walk up and down and rooms to walk between. We’re fortunate though in that we have huge windows and lots of natural light which I love.

Any funny/useful stories about home working?
Working and living with people on all sides means it is easy to feel intruded upon with random noises from neighbouring flats. So I have a policy of pretending people aren’t there. It sounds crazy but it works. I pay attention to the beauties of the world like feeding goldfinches outside my window instead of the person going up and down the corridor.
 
What would be your ideal home working set-up?
I’d like an office boudoir at the end of the garden with its own herb garden and a covered walkway to the house. Inside, an office kitchen with plants, sound proofing and lots of windows and space. That should do.

Rosie runs One Man Band Accounting doing online bookkeeping & tax returns for UK one man bands, as well as offering services to help you do-it-yourself. All with free tea and cake for every new client! Where do we sign up, Katie? Thanks for sharing your home working methods!

Posted in: Routine

23 Comments on "Home working boundaries"

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  1. Thanks, Judy. The brilliant thing about the internet is that it is a global community, so we can have the benefits of working from home with as much, or as little, interaction as we need.

    That just leaves the little task of home/work boundaries!

  2. Sanna says:

    Very interesting, and good food for thought. You don’t necessarily need lots of space to be productive, but being organized is incredibly important. Good use of various types of apps, which I’d never have thought of otherwise.

    • Space is tricky. More would be good, on the other hand, it forces me to be ruthless about what is important. My crab apple jelly store is in the same cupboard as my business records.

    • Judy says:

      I agree, Sanna, Rosie has thought up some great rules. I particularly like the one about being rude to each other and not taking offence. That’s vital if both you and your partner both work from home, as we do!

  3. Ruth Jarvis says:

    Excellent blog post Rosie. It is essential to try to keep the two separate – I have my office in the corner of the kitchen but it is designated work space and isn’t used by anyone else or for anyone else. I work round the children though so can’t focus on the beauties of the world when the kids aren’t at school and do work at weekends but is nice to see how others work 🙂

    • I used to be more open ended. Then I found myself working every day with no mental break when I wasn’t working. The result wasn’t pretty. My partner is often working in the same room when I’m not so I got strict about times. After all, it’s clear when they really need to be stretched.

  4. Caradiaz says:

    Great post, Rosie / Judy. Being organised and self-disciplined are paramount when you work from home to make sure you don’t go off on a tangent at the slightest distraction, especially when you share your ‘office’.

    I shared with my husband for a while in our previous home and it was actually no trouble. We’re both very ‘head down’ kind of people when it comes to work, so getting on with things without interfering with each other’s workload was always the priority. Having said that, we also enjoyed being able to chat during our tea breaks and use each other as a sounding board when necessary.

    • There are more successful ‘couple’s working from home than I think are advertised. I wouldn’t think of myself as a head down kind of person, but you’ve made me think now.

      • Judy says:

        And we have a home worker talking about the experience of working from home with her husband coming up very soon!

  5. Great blog – some excellent stuff to think through here.

    I’ve worked from home as a self-employed copywriter for the past ten years. When I started out, it was (for about two weeks – that was an interesting month) just my wife and me in the house. Our son then came along, followed a couple of years later by twin daughters. All three are now at primary school.

    It’s a cliché, but time passes rapidly, things change, and it’s all too easy to slip from a situation in which homeworking is a doddle, to one in which it’s presenting all manner of challenges – challenges that have crept up on you and are now lounging about the place as if they own it.

    I like Rosie’s tools and rules approach. Tools and rules can provide a solid framework in which to operate, yet be deployed and retired as changing circumstances and goals demand. Solidity with flexibility.

    I would add to that the ‘Office du Jour’ approach, which I find very helpful from time to time. Sometimes I find I just can’t focus at home simply because it is home (this may well be at least in part down to blurring of boundaries, of course) and decamping to the town library or my favourite coffee shop can literally triple or quadrouple my productivity.

    • Thanks Adrian.

      I like your observation about challenges creeping up and then lounging around as if they own the place. Sneaky.

      • Judy says:

        And I like your comment about things changing, Adrian. I don’t think a home worker can ever really claim to have found the perfect formula for home working, except for a very brief time. Because so many factors affect us that are in flux all the time, like children in your case.
        At least it’s a chance to keep things fresh!

  6. Ann Godridge says:

    Interesting blog. We’ve worked from home together for the past ten, no twelve years (where did they go?)

    Somewhere in the middle we realised we were all work and no play and we made some changes that work for us. Ryan needs time to concentrate on programming and tends to be interrupted less at weekends, so we gave those up. But we do take time every day to get out for a walk. And we take days off in the week too.

    I rather like the fantasy office at the end of the garden though. Ryan has a room for an office but I’m stuck in the corner of the living room. One day I hope I will have my own space.

    Ann

  7. I always thought your living room was your office. Do you have a garage that could be used?

    I struggle with feeling like I am truanting if I take time off during the week. I look forward to when it’s moved on!

    • Judy says:

      Taking time off when the rest of the world is working is one of my favourite things, Ann. I developed a taste for it when I ran my cleaning business and used to drive home in the morning after checking offices in the opposite direction to all the commuters 🙂

  8. John Hamelink says:

    Excellent article! I’d never heard of the pomodoro technique… something I’m going to have to check out.

    I’ve heard many home-workers speak of the need to wear the same or similar clothes they’d wear to work in order to get their mindset into that of the workplace when they first started out home-working. What do you think of that?

    • The Pomodoro Technique is wonderful. You work 25 mins, then 5 mins off, etc. Focus Booster app allows you to set the minutes yourself to suit the task and your working style. I leave the ticker on as there is nothing like having tick tick tick to remind a person to concentrate.

      Personally, I find that wearing office clothes puts me off. Then again, I have the privilege of never having worked in a gopher cell M-F 9-5. My suggestion would be wearing the complete dev professional uniform of jeans, T shirt and trainers to combine professional focus and work from home comfort. Maybe your Moz T shirt if you want to impress your boss.

      • Judy says:

        I’ve heard of people who do that too, John, and maybe it is something you do when you first start working from home.
        I’m afraid I tend to specialise in comfortable, well worn-in clothes and every so often feel the urge to smarten up. Like now, a shopping trip is on the cards!

  9. Ming Cheng says:

    I am lucky enough to use my study as the home office, it consist of my big iMac with an AIO A3 printer. As I have children, I tends to start quite early in the morning after dropping them to school and work solidly until they come home.

    I will then switch off for a few hours to spend some time with them before putting in an hour or so before I go to bed. Rosie, interesting technique, but as I am an architect, I tend to concentrate a long period of time to focus on a drawing or write a report.

    As for switching off, sadly, once you are an architect, you tend to think about it ALL THE TIME, not obsessively but me taking pictures of buildings, public space, shop front, street furniture is a constant feature whenever we go out as a family!

    I have been told that the maximum concentration span one can have is 45 mins so I guess your method could suit quite well for most people.

    • It’s all about what suits. When I was doing academic work for my Masters I did blocks of several hours without a break and that worked much better.

      Your work system reminds me of an ad on the London Underground featuring a photo of a sleeping child. The marketing line is that since you’re missing putting them to bed most of the time, your investment product needs to be a good one. I thought, no, you need another set of priorities.

      • Judy says:

        Thanks for explaining that, Rosie! Last time I was in London I saw that ad and couldn’t understand what on earth they were on about! Obviously because my brain is wired completely differently.

    • Judy says:

      The beauty of working from home is that everyone can please themselves and it’s very striking when I talk to home workers that we do vary enormously in our habits and preferences. Well, obviously, we’re all different, but there are so many ‘how to’ articles out there that suggest there is only one way to do it. I do hope these articles don’t put off people by being so prescriptive.

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