“Imma Need Space:” Implementing Boundaries Between Your Work & Living Spaces

How am I supposed to relax when my couch is my office?

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In my last post, we explored how to create and enforce boundaries around our time in order to prevent burnout and allow for more balance.

Time is one of our largest personal assets, but you know what else is pretty valuable? Space.

The terms “personal space” or “bubble” didn’t originate from thin air. We all need spaces that are “ours” where we are comfortable and safe to relax and recharge our batteries. With many of us continuing to work from home, that space has been invaded, causing us heightened stress and anxiety as the line between our work and sacred living spaces gets blurrier by the day.

Although many of us are slowly but surely returning to office life, WFH isn’t going anywhere. How do we protect our sacred spaces now that our homes are also our offices? Here are some things to keep in mind.

Create Designated Workspace(s)

First and foremost, it is highy recommended that you have a dedicated workspace. If you are someone like me who goes a little stir-crazy, you can give yourself 2-3 options (your office, the den, a little nook by the window, etc.). The important thing is that work occurs only in those locations.

This is much easier said than done, after all, that couch looks so comfy at 2 o’clock in the afternoon! Don’t be lured by its siren call.

Why? Psychological associations are easy to form and very powerful. Places like our couch or our bed should be associated with relaxation. If you start working in those places, you will form new associations related to stress. The next time you sit down on your couch to watch Netflix or go to sleep in your bed, you are now trying to relax in a what your braind considers a “work space.” You may even have involuntary physiological stress reactions (elevated heart rate, etc.) which are not good for your health.

What if you don’t have an office or dedicated room in your house for work? Not to worry! There are still things you can do to keep your home and workspaces separate. For example, if you work at your dining room table, you can have different place settings for “work mode” and “home mode.” These visual queues are enough for us to create some mental separation.

You Are Not Obligated to Invite People Into Your Home

I recently read Jennifer Brown Consulting’s “Emerging Stronger Report” which fundamentally changed my view of video meetings. Whereas we often require (or at least strongly encourage) people to turn on their cameras during Zoom meetings, the report likened this requirement to forcing yourself into someone’s home.

Maybe you don’t want your client or colleague to see your kids playing in the background or the mess in your kitchen. That’s OK. We’re not working out of communal spaces anymore, we are working from sacred spaces that used to be reserved for our families. It’s OK to reclaim that space back and turn your camera off.

Pro Tip: If you are required to have your camera on, or if you want to create separation but still prefer “face-to-face” interaction, take advantage of Zoom backgrounds.

What are you doing to create physical (and psychological) separation between your work and home spaces? Let me know in the comments!

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