How to Explain to the People You Live With That You Work

“Do you come to work from home? That’s awesome! “That’s what everyone tells you. You nod and grimace because you know that while it’s nice to avoid commuting and avoiding office politics, working from home comes with its own set of challenges. making people understand that just because you’re at home in sweatpants doesn’t mean you’re available.

Order lunch, fire up Slack, and schedule an afternoon shower. It’s Work from Home of the Week ! From our sofas and local coffee shops, Lifehacker gives you tips to keep you productive, balanced, and sane, whether you work from home all day or your entire career.

What most people don’t understand about working from home is that it is a real job, just like any other. For example, I need to get up at a certain time, start working at a certain time, and then I continue to spend most of my day at my desk working. Yes, it’s nice that I can do all this in my underwear, but the work itself is no different from what my wonderful colleagues do in the main office. Anyway, it’s harder for me to work from home because there are so many distractions around. I can watch movies, play games, run, cook, read books, take a nap, finally take a shower, etc. …

But the most distracting are the people you live with. My current situation is great because I live with someone who also works from home and understands , but I’ve had a fair share of neighbors who didn’t. They wanted me to do something, go somewhere and work on other things, as if I were not working full time. Portlandia has a great sketch (see above) about a man who works from home and refuses to deal with a cable guy who sums up feelings on both sides pretty well. Yes, it sounds silly that we don’t want to be distracted while we work from the comfort of our home, but also, leave me alone – I’m working!

If you feel like your roommates or partner are not understanding and are continuing to work hard on your work, you need to have a serious talk with them. Preferably when you are not in the middle of work yet. Do not put off this conversation until the moment when they pick you up, because this will only lead to a quarrel or you will seem like a jerk and they will defend, not hold back. When the time is right – like a relaxed evening or weekend – this is what you tell them:

“I need to talk to you about when I work from home. I know this can be a little confusing because I am here and not in the office, but this is not a day off or whatever. Between the hours [insert hours of operation here] I am unavailable – for nothing. I can’t hang out, do housework, run errands, or take care of [specify person, place, or thing here] at that time because I need to focus on my work. But if I can, I will of course try to take care of that later. Just imagine that I really am not at this time, if that helps. It is important to me that you understand.

Then say the following:

“Do you have any questions for me?”

You must directly explain to them the importance of your work, but you must also give them the opportunity to ask all the questions they may have been holding back. If they never had a remote gig, this might seem strange. Perhaps knowing how it all works will help them better understand your work. Or, they may want to know if what they are doing during the day distracts you. Encourage them to ask questions and answer them honestly. Now is not the time to put things off to avoid confrontation. This is where you want to solve the problem, not create more.

Now, not every work-from-home situation requires a serious sit-down conversation. If your roommates or partner mostly understands how important your household chores are, you may be able to get by with a few basic rules that promote a healthy work-home balance. Here are some examples:

  • Closed Door Rule : If the door to your office / study / bedroom is closed during scheduled business hours, you are busy and should not be disturbed. If it’s open, you might be still working, but you can at least chat.
  • Rule of 10 minutes or less : You can only participate in activities or do something to help around the house if they take 10 minutes or less. Otherwise, you will have to wait until you finish the job. You can adapt this to whatever time constraint you like depending on your preference.
  • The two-day rule : This is my personal favorite. Basically, you are saying that you are ready to help with larger tasks or to participate in more time-consuming tasks if you are given some time to complete an order. Two days or 48 hours gives you enough time to plan things out, do extra work ahead of time, and tell your office that you will be unavailable for a certain period of time. One day is not enough.

If you’re new to working from home, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to establish these boundaries between work and home. Find a compromise, but now is not the time to give in. Telecommuting, whether full-time or part-time, is already stressful. Don’t make it difficult for yourself.


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