Career expert: How to find balance and stay 'emotionally healthy' when working from home

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Millions of people in the U.S. are still working from home, and they may be doing so for the long haul. Some companies, like Google and Twitter, have announced that remote work could continue until the end of the year. And for other some types of jobs, the shift to working from home may be permanent. 

If working from home is your new normal, developing a routine and setting boundaries can help you establishing a better work-life balance

"When we're in a remote work period, it can be very easy to wake up early in the morning, open up your laptop, keep working until the end of the day — and that's just not going to be the most emotionally healthy thing," says Angelina Darrisaw, a career coach and founder and CEO of C-Suite Coach based in Brooklyn, New York. "And it might be something that leads to burnout."

Here are three ways you can optimize the way you work from home to find balance. 

1. Have a dedicated work space

Create a clear physical boundary in your household to establish balance between work and home life, and to minimize distractions, Darrisaw says. "I would highly recommend not working in a place where you sleep or that you associate with relaxing."

"A separation that includes a space that's dedicated to work, and then when you're off the clock and you're not thinking about work, you also have a space that you can enjoy and you can feel like you're at home," says Darrisaw. "That space might mean [an] area of your living room or an area of your kitchen."

3 tips to ace working from home

Video by Mariam Abdallah

If you don't have a separate office space, consider buying a desk divider that could help you create a physical and mental boundary. 

Make sure you have the right equipment, too. To ensure comfort and much-needed back support, "everyone should have a very comfortable chair, preferably one that rolls," certified professional organizer Sharon Lowenheim told Grow earlier this year.

2. Communicate with your team

"I'd highly encourage connecting with your team and establishing some norms and expectations around what working from home looks like," Darrisaw says. In terms of distractions, "people have everything from their children to their pets to different roommates."

Because working from home looks different for everyone, clearly communicate your expectations and availability to make sure you and your teammates are on the same page.

If there are times during the work day that you, or others, will need to be away or unavailable, plan accordingly.

"Be really upfront about what [each member] of your team's situation might look like so everyone can feel accommodated and also included in the team," says Darrisaw. 

It can be very easy to wake up early in the morning, open up your laptop, keep working until the end of the day — and that's just not going to be the most emotionally healthy thing.
Angelina Darrisaw
Career coach and founder and CEO of C-Suite Coach

Talking to your colleagues during the workday has other advantages, too. You may find yourself spending most of the workday alone. Taking time out to connect with your team can help boost both productivity and your general well-being.

"Whether you fall on the introverted side of the spectrum, or the extroverted side, we all need connection," Darrisaw says. "I highly recommend that you carve out time to have social connections, still have fun, and engage in conversations that fulfill you outside of simply working."

3. Make a clear plan for the day

At the start of each day, take some time to outline your to-dos and goals. Darrisaw suggests creating two different types of agendas.

The first agenda helps provide structure and mimics your work day in the office: "You have times when you go on coffee breaks or where you give yourself a little bit of time to create a distance for food," she says. Carve out time to eat, exercise, and socialize.

The second will keep you and your team accountable for assigned work and projects. "Work with your team to create shared documents to track status on projects," Darrisaw says. "This really helps with communication and can ease some of the anxiety your managers are facing if they're new to managing a remote team."

Darrisaw suggests shared collaboration tools like Google Docs, Trello, and Asana to take the work out of tracking your team's progress.

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