It might be difficult to accept, but many professionals are expected to be productive even after their official work hours. The demands of the workplace can often put pressure and create challenges involving the care of family and friends who want to be involved in your life. Even worse, bringing work home can create a condition called “role conflict,” where your mind can’t decide whether to be in work-mode or home-mode even when you aren’t engaged in work-related activities. Role conflict can occur whenever people are expected to play two different roles, as in this case, or are unclear about the very nature of their role; i.e, what they are supposed do.
The regular routines we develop each day help signal our minds to shift from role to role, but bringing work home throws a monkey wrench into the machine of transitions. And while the best way to avoid such a conflict is to simply avoid bringing work home, the demands of a job may necessitate the presence of work-related tasks at home. But fret not. There are a few methods to use in order to trigger those mental cues that separate work from home within your mind.
First and foremost, create a completely separate area in your home where you perform all work-related tasks. Sure, a home office is the best option, but even a separate space in your bedroom or other area that is unrelated to family activities (e.g. the dining room table). The idea is to set up a space where, when you leave it, you mind takes it as a cue to transition between your work role and your family role.
Just as you should physically separate yourself from the rest of your house while doing work, you should also block out periods of time throughout your day that are completely devoted to your family – yes, that means even checking email. Simply knowing that you will have time to work later will give you the peace of mind necessary for you to give your family your full attention. Try to schedule your work after your spouse or children go to bed or before they wake up so that your work duties never interrupt your reserved time.
Ask for respect for your working time at home from your family. As you develop a rationalized routine for spending time absolutely dedicated to family, you should expect to more clearly differentiate your working time as well. Make sure that when you are working, just work – don’t be interrupted constantly or be available for personal calls and chats. This more clear delineation of work and home time helps solve the “role conflict” problem.
Finally, set boundaries for the amount of work acceptable during off time by being assertive with your boss. Be vocal and blatant about the hours during which you are not available. During this period, turn off your phone, don’t check your email, and close down all things work related.
Leaving your work at the office is always the best option when creating an environment dedicated to personal time with your family and pursuing your interests, but if finishing work at home is an absolute must create the separate space, allow for generous time periods with your family, and let your boss know your limits and stick by them at all times.