Procurement · 23 May 2016

Five ways to achieve work-life balance when your home is also your office

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Just because Winston Churchill worked from his bed, it doesn’t make it a good idea

Whether you’re lying awake at night because it feels like the incomplete paperwork on the floor is glaring at you or getting a wrap on the knuckles for trying to surreptitiously check your email under the table at your daughter’s birthday party, the temptations to undermine work-life balance are endless when you own your own business.

Yet everyone has to switch off sometimes – to prevent burnout as much as maintain personal relationships. For the four million UK workers based at home, this is no mean feat, but our tips should make it a lot easier.

(1) Keep electronic devices out of your bedroom

 If you were born before 1995, you may have a distant memory of a time that you were woken up in the morning by something other than the smartphone which also contains your emails and to-do lists. Recent research carried out by Business Advice on the John Lewis website revealed traditional alarm clocks do still exist – and experiencing the hushed tones of Radio 4’s Today programme or even a reassuringly old-fashioned bell will do wonders for your stress levels.

(2) Get dressed

Though Winston Churchill famously worked from his bed in a dressing gown covered in dragons, he also spent a lot of his life clinically depressed –  and the two were probably related. Although research carried out by Nectar Business in 2011 found ten per cent of homeworking British adults to have kept their pyjamas on all day, the link between performance and productivity means you are likely to be happier and achieve more with proper clothes on. And more importantly, associating smart clothes with work and casual ones with sleep will make it easier for you to switch off at night.

(3) Fake your commute

Though eliminating a long, uncomfortable commute is one of the big draws of basing your business or self-employment activity at home, the way travel separates work from home life means you can miss the structure when you quit the office. The easy solution is to make a ten minute stroll round the block an integral part of your morning and evening routine. Not only will it help you get in and out of “work mode”, but a morning stroll will make you more creative, and, if it’s brisk enough, help keep off the pounds too.

(3) Get a desk that folds up

With the UK’s property crisis showing no signs of abating, the entrepreneur with the luxury of a spare room to use as an office is a rare breed. But if you’re still working on the kitchen table, consider heading to Ikea to invest in a surface that can be covered up or hidden from view when you’re trying to switch off – you’ll be a lot less stressed as a result.

(4) Turn off email notifications

Though the occasional unavoidable late night or working weekend are inevitable when you’re at the helm of a micro business, there will be times when you’re not expecting any urgent messages or have a personal commitment which you don’t want to be distracted from. But it sometimes takes an awful lot of self-control not to rush to the toilet to read at an email from that sales lead or disgruntled employee, whatever your intentions. So if you’re serious about switching off, turn off email notifications on your smartphone – you can find out how to do this on Apple devices here, or by reading this guide if you have an Android device.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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