Do you always feel like you have to be available for work? When you’re working from home, it’s easy to worry that you’re not doing enough. While you know you need to set clear boundaries between your personal and professional life, even ignoring one after-hours business text can seem like you’re costing yourself money.
However, a good work-life balance doesn’t have to hurt your career. Keeping work and home life separate can even help you perform better by reducing the guilt and isolation that remote workers feel. Here’s how to separate work and home in seven effective ways.
1. Use separate browsers or browser profiles for work
If you’re using a personal device for work and home, a simple way to set better boundaries is by using different browsers for business and professional use. This way, you won’t be distracted by social media or Netflix while working. On the flip side, you won’t be distracted by work emails when you’re trying to wind down.
If Google Chrome is your preferred web browser, you also have the option to set up separate browser profiles for work. By logging into a different Google account, you can display different bookmarks, browser themes, and work-specific plugins.
2. Mute business notifications after hours
A business notification can quickly turn your mind back into work mode, even when it’s the middle of the night. If you have business apps like Slack or Gmail installed on your personal phone or computer, make sure your work notifications are muted after you clock out. You’ll be able to avoid the temptation of checking on emails and tasks, so you can stick to healthy, dedicated work hours.
3. Communicate your working hours to teammates and customers
As you’re figuring out how to separate work and home, you can communicate your boundaries to the people you work with. When you reassure your business contacts that you’ll return calls during your working hours, you can enjoy your personal life while keeping clients and teammates happy.
If you regularly have work calls and texts, get a dedicated business phone number (if you haven’t already) so you can easily communicate when you’re unavailable.
With OpenPhone, you can set business hours for your phone system, so you won’t get notifications for after-hours calls or texts. Plus, you can create an away voicemail greeting that tells callers when you’ll be back in the office, assuring them that you’ll get back to them.
4. Set up auto-replies for when you’re not available
Text message auto-replies can also help you communicate your availability, even when you’re away during your usual business hours. If you want to go on vacation, take an extended lunch break, or unplug for the holidays without leaving customers in the dark, you can use auto-replies to set expectations for when you’ll respond.
You can set auto-reply messages to instantly send when you get a text, miss a call, or receive a voicemail.
You can also use auto-replies to direct customers to other contacts for urgent matters. This way, they can get immediate support, and you won’t have to stress about urgent messages as soon as you return.
5. Ensure every meeting has a clear purpose
Do you squander a lot of time in meetings? At least one-third of every meeting gets wasted due to irrelevant discussions and bad presentations. If this is a frequent issue for your team, one strategy you can implement is creating and sharing clear meeting agendas before every call.
When your team has set topics to discuss (or specific decisions to make), as well as strict time frames for each, everyone can be more motivated to stay on task. As a result, your meetings can be more productive. You’ll be able to check more off your to-do list and clock out on time.
Download this Notion template to use during your meetings that includes action items you can add in once a meeting ends. This way, everyone knows what they need to do after every call, so you can avoid unnecessary follow-ups that cut into your work-life balance.
6. Block out time in your calendar for healthy activities
No one can work all day without burning out. Even eight hours on the grind (with zero breaks) can be bad for both mental wellness and productivity. A big part of learning how to separate work and home is understanding it’s OK to take breaks — and it’s more than OK to focus on yourself when the workday is over.
Consider blocking out recurring time for healthy activities. It can help you make refueling a scheduled priority on your calendar. Think about the activities that fill your cup back up — like going to the gym, dining out with family members, reading a book, or listening to podcasts — and set aside time for them.
According to research by Kevin Kruse, author of “15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management,” high-performers never talk about their to-do lists. Instead, they discuss how they organize their calendars, so focusing on a healthy schedule can improve both your work time and downtime.
7. Create a designated workspace
Working from your living room couch or dining table can lead to hunching over, adding up to 10 pounds of pressure on the neck and upper back for every inch you dip forward. Learning how to separate work and home life can be as simple as optimizing your physical space.
Create a home office space — a designated area where you can focus on all your work-related tasks — so you can dedicate the rest of your home to personal time.
This guide can help you choose the right desk and chair height for optimal posture.
Keep this workspace clear of clutter and other distractions to make getting through your tasks easier. At the end of the day, walking away from your desk can feel like clocking out, so you can fully focus on loved ones and lower your stress levels.
Achieve a better work-life balance with OpenPhone
Feel at least a little relieved you’re not leaving money on the table (or hurting your career) by being 100% off outside of business hours? As long as you communicate your business hours clearly and make an effort to complete your tasks, you can keep your clients and teammates happy while caring for your own mental health.
Learning how to separate work and home without any work messages slipping through the cracks can start with setting up a virtual phone system. With OpenPhone, you can set business hours to turn off business phone notifications as soon as your workday is over — all without leaving money on the table. When you set up after-hours voicemail messages and auto-replies, you can let callers and texters know when they can expect a response.
Sign up for a free trial of OpenPhone to achieve a good work-life balance, guilt-free.
Emily is a freelance business and marketing writer based in the desert, though her writing is anything but dry. Her passion is writing compelling, human-friendly content that helps growing businesses perform better.