Last updated: 10th March, 2021
Managing your work-life balance when running a business from home
Read this article for actionable advice on how to find the balance between work and other commitments when your office is at home.
Working from home has been increasing in popularity for the past few years. However, the figures skyrocketed in 2020 due to the global pandemic and social distancing. In April 2020, almost half the UK’s workforce was working from home in some capacity, up from 13.9% in 2014.
Maybe you run an online-only business or are a freelancer selling your services through a freelance marketplace like Fiverr or PeoplePerHour. Whether you’re working from home out of choice or necessity, it’s important to establish a balance between your work life and your home. This guide will help you create boundaries to improve your productivity and reduce your stress.
One of the most effective work-life balance strategies is to create boundaries between your work life and your home life. The boundaries you set will all depend on your job, working hours and the space you live (and now work) in.
Everyone has different schedules and responsibilities. Everyone is productive at different times of the day – or for longer/shorter periods. For example, you may find you work better over longer hours but take regular breaks. Or you may need to squeeze childcare into your schedule, causing you to work into the night.
However, when working from home it’s important for your well-being to separate your working hours from your personal time. If possible, have a cut-off time in the evening and do not do any work later – designate time to wind down and switch off before bedtime.
If this is not possible due to other responsibilities, try to block out some time in your day to do the things you’d otherwise want to do after work. As you run the business, why not allow yourself a two-hour lunch break to go to the gym, spend time reading in your garden or catch up on the latest episodes of your favourite TV show?
If you have a spare room or office you can use for your work, this can help you to establish balance between home and work. Creating the distinction between your workspace and the rest of your life can help you not only to switch off at the end of the day but switch on again in the morning.
Try to leave your equipment in that room when working hours are over. Don’t bring your laptop, work phone or reading material into the rest of your home for evening, as you will never truly switch off.
If you don’t have a spare room, set up a working station – whether it’s at your kitchen table or a quiet corner of the house. By setting your desk up each day, you are preparing yourself for your working day, and by packing it away in the evening you are allowing yourself to unwind.
Establish boundaries with your household
One of the tricky issues with working from home is finding a harmonious balance with your housemates. Whether you live with family or friends, adults or children, having other people around can be a huge distraction when you’re trying to be productive. You may also not be the only one working from home, and so should consider how you may be disturbing others in the house.
Establish your working hours and your working space and set boundaries as to how and when you will interact with others. Work as far away from the others in your home as you can to minimise disruption and use headphones when joining work calls to keep distracting sounds to a minimum. This can also help with privacy if your role deals with sensitive or personal information. You could also align your coffee breaks with your partner or housemate so you can catch up then, rather than interrupting each other during streaks of productivity!
Setting these boundaries can be especially difficult if you have children, however the same principles apply. Depending on their age, you may not be able to communicate well with them that you need time alone. You can try setting times for them to do specific activities, such as learning, drawing or playing. Additionally, you could create a sign for the door that lets them know you are busy, or why not get them to make you one?
Use any flexibility you have
If tight schedules don’t fit with your working pattern, then try to make the most of the flexibility that often comes with working from home. Consider working flexitime or less structured hours. You may find that you can take whole afternoons or days off for putting in longer hours on other days. If you are struggling to unwind in the evenings, having longer periods of time away from work may help.
International business hours
Flexibility will become important if you’re running an international business. You may be used to travelling to new locations and working in their time zones when you arrive, but due to travel restrictions are no longer able to do so. Whether you’re a sole trader or freelancer, or run a business, it’s important to maintain healthy habits when working in different time zones.
If you have business partners across the world and need to take meetings at various times during the day, it’s important to take breaks in between – especially if they stretch from early morning into the evening. Additionally, if you’re having to take meetings that disrupt your sleeping pattern, ensure you’re getting to bed earlier or waking up later, and do not rely on caffeine to get you through the day.
If you’re working with vendors abroad and making international payments, a money transfer app can help ease the process, giving you more time to focus on your other work. PagoFX by Santander is a low-cost, easy-to-use and secure service, and is available for business use by sole traders and UK-registered limited companies.
Get out of the house
There’s only so much you can do to create separation inside your home. If you find you’re becoming a victim of cabin fever, take opportunities to go outside. Whether it’s a quick walk on your lunch break, a long stroll after work or even going for a run.
You may find you miss the walk or cycle to the office that you were previously doing every day, and so taking time to do a little bit of exercise can really help boost your energy levels at the beginning of the day or clear your mind at the end of it. Exercise has also been proven to have great benefits for your mental health.
Check in with colleagues
If you’re used to being in a social office environment, ensure that you continue that sociable behaviour from home. Opt for Zoom meetings over emails so you can have actual conversations with people – this can often help to lift your mood. Even suggest having a catchup coffee on your lunch breaks if possible, which can also help you get out of the house. This can improve your mood and help with motivation.
When possible, suggest coffee breaks with your colleagues throughout the day – as you would in an office. Ensure you talk about topics other than work to help keep that work-life balance. This will also help you stick to the relevant topics in meetings.
If you’re a freelancer, consider setting up networking meetings or joining online networking groups for a similar experience.
Get dressed to impress every day
This may seem like an obvious one, but it is known to help improve motivation. Getting dressed into the appropriate clothing every day can change your mood drastically, and really help you get into the right mindset. This can also work in reverse – if you get changed once your working day is over into some comfier clothes, you will be more likely to wind down and feel like your free time has really started.
Find ways to relax after work
Still wondering how to achieve work-life balance? One of the easiest ways to strike the balance between your work life and home life is to find a way to truly switch off. Whether it’s going for a walk once you’ve finished your taxes (Link to: Everything you need to know about small business taxes), running a bath or enjoying a glass of something with your favourite TV show, make sure you do something you enjoy in your free time. Turn off your work phone, stop checking your emails and pick up a new hobby. From reading to cooking, exercising to seeing friends and family, spend time doing what you love. Consider joining an evening class or a book club, as these activities can force you to change out of your work mode. Why not learn a new language, or research a new culture to immerse yourself into?
A good work-life balance minimises stress – whether that’s through improving motivation and productivity, helping you switch off from work or keeping your household harmonious. The benefits to having this separation and distinction are endless.
This article is provided as general information purposes only and is not intended to cover all aspects of the topic. We recommend that you take professional and specialised advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the content of this publication, as this article is not intended to constitute expert advice. We do not guarantee, explicitly or implicitly, that the content of this article is accurate, complete or up-to-date. The information in this article does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from PagoFX or its affiliates.