In her latest guest post for SecsintheCity, Suzy Sanders, Founder and Franchisor at Alchemy Virtual Assistance, reveals her secrets for setting and maintaining healthy home working boundaries.
Let’s be real - the lines have been all kinds of blurred… working from home is both a blessing and a curse at the best of times!
I made the decision to work from home many years ago when I started my Virtual Assistant business Alchemy VA. In my experience working from home is a ‘love or hate’ thing. To be clear, I absolutely love it and I think it’s important to note that the differences between homeworking employed vs. self-employed are vast and varied. Perhaps more on that another day…
As the world starts to shift back towards ‘normality’ many companies are choosing to continue with remote working in the spirit of flexibility and, ultimately, cost savings. In my humble view it’s a smart move, as so many people crave the flexibility, trust and empowerment that comes from home working, and people are at the heart of any business.
However, as we all ease out of the most destructive and turbulent of times, I think it’s important that we all still have one eye on our working from home wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. In order to keep ourselves happy, focused and productive when working from home we must first lay down some solid and meaningful boundaries.
I’d like to share my number one happy home working boundary by way of some inspiration before I let in you in on a few of my secrets to setting and maintaining healthy boundaries when you’re working from home.
At this point I would like to stress that I am an expert on what works for me and I’ve been to burn out and back several times! I am also a huge advocate of exploring and finding what works for YOU! All my strategies and tips may not work for you, we are all so different after all. But please take some inspiration from the ideas I am about to share, try them out and have fun finding what has the most impact for you.
I set one big, clear boundary for myself on day one of my virtual assistant business adventure, many years before the pandemic. That one rule was that family time and work time are two separate things. I strive to ensure minimal crossover to protect the quality and integrity of both times. It’s important to me that I always fully dedicate myself to the situation at hand whether it be reading my son a story or speaking to a potential Alchemy VA franchisee. Both deserve my presence and demand the best of me, in very different ways.
At the end of the day, the most important part of my life is my family. They come first, always.
Having an incredibly supportive family allows me to live by this rule. Well, most of the time. I am far from perfect and this boundary obviously got bent right out of shape when the world sunk into lockdown last year! But we are firmly putting that dark cloud behind us now. However, much remains true now - setting and maintaining healthy boundaries are critical to ensure a happy work life blend.
So, here are a few of my secrets to setting and maintaining healthy boundaries when you’re working from home:
- Clearly define what your working hours and boundaries are and stick to them! Review them often too, life is fluid and ever changing after all. I like to look at my work/life boundaries weekly.
- Give yourself generous deadlines and time frames on projects and tasks to minimise stress and avoid rushing. There are far more distractions at home so to prevent yourself getting caught short, if a task will take three hours, then allow yourself five.
- Streamline your communication channels where possible – having WhatsApp, slack, email and Teams popping up all day is massively distracting and somewhat stressful.
- Don’t be afraid to turn off your notifications too and check your emails, phones and/or apps when you are ready to. The constant ‘ping’ of messages simply isn’t helpful or fair.
- Utilise your ‘Out of Office’ or voicemail message to reinforce your boundaries and preferred communication channels. Leave a polite message so that your contacts, clients or colleagues know when you check your messages and how and when they should expect a response.
- Understand that ‘no’ is an adequate response sometimes. If saying a straight ‘no’ makes you uncomfortable, why not research and learn some new, softer ways of reinforcing and maintaining your self set boundaries that protect your happiness and sanity?
- Leave the house at least once a day to take a walk in nature, even if it’s just for ten minutes. The change in scenery will stimulate your brain, boost your thinking power and elevate your mood. It’s obviously good for your body too. If your schedule is tight, stick the hands free in and catch up with a colleague, peer or your boss whilst you walk.
- Be gentle and kind to yourself. You’re human and you’re allowed to have days where things fall apart or go wrong.
- It may seem a bit over the top but scheduling time for myself is something that I do religiously. If I schedule the time to remove the many ‘hats’ I wear, it’s much more likely to happen! I prioritise making time when I can just be. This creates space for replenishment and fun. It’s certainly not selfish or self-indulgent – it’s essential! I find when I am at rest or play, this is where I will form the best ideas, the creative solutions, the answers to tricky situations.
I hope these points give you some new things to explore or perhaps some old things to reinforce.
Also, please remember, the only people who will ever have a problem with you having healthy, productive boundaries are the very people who are set to gain from you having no boundaries at all.
Read more about starting and growing a successful Virtual Assistant business in Suzy’s book: The Alchemy of Virtual Assistance. You can visit www.alchemyva.co.uk for more information on the UK’s only Family run Virtual Assistant franchise.