Working from home may seem the ideal solution to easing tension between your work and personal life. Flexible hours, no commute and more time with family sound like a dream come true. Maybe not. A recent study on teleworkers at a large computer company showed working from home exacerbated feelings of mental and physical fatigue among those who were already struggling to balance their work and personal responsibilities.
The study's author, Timothy Golden, associate professor at the Lally School of Management & Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., says moving the workplace to the home can intensify existing work and family conflict rather than alleviate it. While at the office, chores, family members and piles of laundry are out of sight, providing a physical barrier to the conflict. Blending the workplace into the home provides constant visual reminders of the work-family conflict, causing stress levels to rise. In other words, simply moving the office to the home is not to the solution to work-family conflict.
While the home office is a natural setting for many entrepreneurs, failing to erect physical and mental boundaries can eliminate all the benefits working from home can provide.
Follow these tips to make a healthy home-office environment:
Give yourself a commute. The commute provides a physical distance that allows workers to mentally detach from work and transition into the home domain. "When you're working from home, that physical transition between work and home isn't there," says Golden. In an attempt to re-create this transition, Golden has seen some individuals with home offices walk to their neighborhood coffee shop every morning, crab their cup of java, then re-enter their home and head to the office in an attempt to transition into “work mode.” Others may get in their cars and drive around the block.
Avoid having work and play in the same area. In order to mentally separate work from home, Golden says you need a dedicated office space with a door, not a desk in the middle of the living room. "When you don't have that physical boundary, people tend to get even more consumed in their work and their stress may increase," says Golden. Avoid decorating the home office with photos of family, and instead have your decor reflect the goals of the business.
Join a social group. While working from home may eliminate the distractions of coworkers poking their heads into your office an inopportune times, studies show the water cooler chat may actually be beneficial to your health. Research by Brigham Young University in Utah looked at various studies on sociability and found lack of human interaction negatively affected health to the same degree as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and was as harmful as never exercising and twice as damaging as being obese. If you work from home, consider joining a meet-up group for entrepreneurs and avoid isolating yourself in your office.
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