Many professional and freelance designers work from home: perhaps due to familial or personal restrictions, perhaps because the commute to the company office is too far, or perhaps that’s just the way they like it. Whatever the reason, once a designer finds his or herself in a situation where work is performed under the same roof as laundry, a few small actions can make all the difference in maintaining a healthy life-work balance and not getting caught doing homework.
A Dedicated Space
Remember when you were a student and you would sit down in your favorite spot to do homework? Maybe it was the kitchen table, maybe it was a little desk in your room; either way, you did your best studying when you were in ‘your spot’. This can be true for the home office too. It is preferable to have a dedicated room if you plan on working full time from home although this may not be an option for everyone.
At the very least, you should have a specific area to work and be devoted to only performing work in that area. What I mean is, don’t do your Skyping® with family or play games from your work area. Similarly, don’t take your laptop into another room to work. You wouldn’t eat in the bathroom or vise versa (think about it…..yuck!), think of your home office the same way. This little trick helps the human psyche to distinguish from work and play subconsciously.
The Switch to 9 to 5: If You’re Not a Student, Why are You Doing Homework?
I would be willing to bet that is the hardest adjustment to make since working from home means being near the office all the time and never actually ‘leaving’ your office building. The work is always there, lurking in the background and beckoning you to pay attention to it. If you are not diligent at keeping your personal and work time clearly separated, you stand the chance of putting in way more hours than necessary. Is it really necessary to work on that proof at 2 a.m or spend all day Sunday making updates to a website that no one will even see until Monday?
No, it isn’t. Resolve yourself to working on client projects only during your regular work hours. By answering phone calls and emails only during posted hours of operation, you send a clear message that you are a bona fide business like any other. Also, actively disconnecting your personal time by physically shutting your office door (or shutting down your computer) when the work day has ended will help remind you that just because you’re ‘at the office’ doesn’t mean you have to be working.
Of course, business owners and freelancers are often required to work on things not necessarily related to production or billable time like bookkeeping, billing, and filing. Setting aside time to do the extras like making backups on Friday evenings and sending out billing on Monday mornings you can accomplish most of these tasks when a regular employee would be performing opening or closing duties and not get stuck doing them on your personal time.
Making Your Space Awesome
One of the most wonderful parts of having a dedicated office space in your home is your ability to do whatever you want with it! You can surround yourself with all the things that inspire you. You can be as messy or organized as you want and you can place your office essentials in a place that is easy for you to access, not down the hall where everyone can get to it.
It is YOUR space. Paint the walls in a color that induces creativity or keeps you motivated. PANTONE® has a great resource on their site to help you pick just the right color to fit the mood you want to create in your work environment. Being creative by nature will surely help in constructing a space that promotes your personal productivity.
Go to Work!
Some designers swear by acting as if their home office is an actual commuting job. They may, for example, get up, take a shower, get dressed, and have a cup of coffee before ‘leaving for work’. This is a great tip if you are having a hard time adjusting to working from home. By creating a routine, you are again training your psyche to distinguish work-time from playtime.
Avoiding Distractions (addressing the friends and family issue)
When you were a kid and little Bobby came by your house to see if you could play, your mom opened the door and explained that you were doing your homework and could not come out until it was done. Well, your Mommies can’t help you now so it’s up to you to address the common assumption that since you work from home, you can ‘play’ whenever you want.
This may be technically true but let’s face it; we all have bosses, our CLIENTS who depend on us. By being honest and frank about your working hours with friends and family, you can avoid the hassle of constantly having to explain that you are not sitting around all day eating Cheese Puffs and waiting for something to do. You wouldn’t dare interrupt your friend’s workday to ask if they could walk your dog, or check your mail, or run an errand for you….they shouldn’t do this to you either.
Improving Every Day
Everyday is an opportunity to improve your work environment and adjust to a designer’s ever-changing work load. Obviously, the above cannot be implemented in a manner that never allows for change (heck, we’ve all had an all night deadline at some point!), but making a continued effort to balance one’s life can’t be a bad thing.
One of the most fantastic benefits of setting your own hours and working from your own space is that you can alter your schedule to suit the ever changing needs and obligations of life. If you’re having an off day, go catch a movie or take the dog to the park. Feeling a little less than creative? Pull out the sewing machine or canvas and oils and work in a different medium for a few hours. You have the freedom to make your own choices, your own hours, your own environment…..take advantage!
Please feel free to comment with additional tips, experiences, or questions about maintaining a healthy work-life balance when your work and life happen to coexist in the same space. And don’t forget to answer the poll questions below.
FYI – This poll closes at midnight Pacific Time on August 12th. The results of the poll will remain hidden until then so we can reveal the results in a follow up post early next week! Thanks for voting and all your comments!