When you were working in an office outside of your home, it probably was very clear when you stop working. When your working hours were over you packed your stuff and went home. However, when you are working from home either as an employee or self-employed it's a different story. And you may wonder how to stop working long hours when you work from home?
How To Keep Your Working Hours In Check When Working From Home
It’s a three-step process for a new work life balance without losing productivity. But it all starts with your mindset.
- You need to first see the need to stop working long hours when working from home.
- Focus on the benefit of being able to stop working when working from home.
- Have measures in place to break the habit of working constantly.
Step 1: realize WHY you should stop working longer hours when you work from home
There are several reasons why a balance between work and personal time is not only more healthy but also essential to keep up your productivity in the long run.
Remote workers who are not able to switch off work are prone to burnout. This is a serious problem. As researchers show, about 30% of all people working from home are in danger to get burnout syndrome over a period of one year.
There are many reasons. For remote employees, it might be the pressure to show the boss that you are able to work remotely. Therefore, you work twice as hard as before in order to keep that privilege.
If you are self-employed, it could be that you simply love the "work from home lifestyle" and just working longer hours to keep it going.
So there are many reasons to keep on working more hours, by answering just that "one last" email, or completing a few "last" tasks and make that "one last" quote for your customer.
If you will be able to close your computer screen at the end of the day, you can avoid burnout, you benefit yourself and your family members. What better reasons could there be?
Step 2: focus on the benefit when you stop long hours workdays when doing remote work
Can you think back to when you had a job somewhere outside of your home? Maybe it’s already a long time ago. But how did you feel when you had your defined office hours and were able to leave your workplace at the end of the day - and switched completely to home life? Do you wish you could do that also now?
Well, the good news is you can! No matter if you doing remote work in your home office, or working remotely longer hours as a freelancer - you can and need to go back to defined time management, with a clear distinction between your job and private life.
But for now, it’s important that you have a clear picture in mind how your life would look like.
Imagine what you would love to do. If you have a family, do you want to have time to play with your kids? Or do you want to have time to meet friends again, cooking dinner, or have more time with your partner?
You need to look forward to what you will be able to do again once you put an end to working extra hours!
Step 3: 10 helpful tips on how remote employees can end working overtime
Now you know exactly why you want to be able to end working overtime when working from home - either as employees or freelancer. You also have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish. Now it’s time to acutely putting an end to working longer than you should.
But as with every habit we develop over time, it’s not so easy to break free of them. That is also true with the habit of spending excessive time in your home office. So it requires determination and clear goals. Make it your project!
Researchers found out, that’s something becomes a new habit after you repeat it 30 – 40 times. So force yourself for a period of 6 weeks to stick to a routine by following more tips below. After that, it becomes much easier to stop if you work longer hours than you should.
Here are 10 very helpful and proven strategies to put an end to work overtime when you are working from home.
1. Clearly define a time when you start working and when you stop
Simply having the goal to end your work day “earlier” will not work. You may already have tried that, but still, you are reading this article. So it may not have worked for you so far.
So think about the exact hour you want to end your day. First, think about the time when you want to stop. It might be when your partner is home as well or whatever fits your circumstances. Also, include 1 hour of lunchtime in your (we will get to that point later).
It might be that you need to start working a bit earlier than you used to. But if you have your goal and benefits clear in mind - staying motivated - will help you to do it.
Once you have that schedule print it out and post somewhere you have in clear sight while you are working. Also, hand out one to your family or partner so they can remind you.
2. Clearly communicate your established working hours with your colleagues and boss.
Let them know when you are available for meetings and phone calls. If your boss was accustomed to call you at any given moment, it will be a change for him as well.
Assure him that you will work fully concentrated on his requests as soon as you will “be back” in your office the next day. And do it right in the morning, the first hour, or at least during the first half of your day. Arrange a mailbox for your boss, so he can leave you a message if he cannot resist the urge to call you at night.
Not everyone will love that right away. But your colleagues, employees, customer as well your boss need to know when you are available in person. And when they know you are again available the next morning at a specific time, stick to it and keep your promise. Then they will accept it and respect your job and work times.
3. Align your working hours with your family
We touched on that point before, but when you work from home, it can happen that you are so focused on the job, that your family or significant other feels neglected. Therefore, when you plan your day, set your working hours in a way that you can have a share in household chores.
When your partner works remotely as well align your schedule to spend some time with him/her as well.
For example, can you plan to work when your kid is at school? It also can mean to start working a few hours earlier, when your spouse or partner and/or kids are still sleeping. So you already got a lot of things done when they wake up.
4. Make a schedule for your personal life
Since you want to break the habit of working long hours in the evening, it’s important to fill the gap so to speak.If you do not have definite plans what you want to do with your free time, chances are high that you just keep going or just answering that “last” email.. even if the time already has come you scheduled to leave work.
For example, make a schedule for the time right after your work is done. That could be just as simple as making a plan to go for a walk in a nearby park, getting some fresh air, or to meet friends.
The idea is that you have clear in mind what exactly you will do when you stop working. This will help you to stick to your plan; especially if you plan activities, you are looking forward to.
5. Leave your office at the end of the day
If you keep sitting in your office setting for private activities like ordering something online, writing private emails, it’s all too easy to just do “this one last" work task. And before you know it you are again wrapped up in work.
So if you have a separate office setting, leave it after you stopped working and close the door.
If you don’t have a separate office in your home, but just a desk that you usually work on, you still can do the same. Leave the desk and ONLY use it for your remote work, and never for personal use.
In time you will train your brain to perceive this area with “work life” tasks only.
So if you need to do some office stuff during your personal time, go to another desk or chair in your home. Leaving your workplace like this creates a little commute and puts you into personal life mode for the rest of the day.
6. Have a separate phone and laptop for work and private use
There are many benefits of having different devices for work and private use.
The most obvious in this context is of course, that you are simply less tempted to check your work emails or take a call that is work-related.
This requires getting a different phone number for your work. Take advantage of the many options including free virtual numbers that you can use.
If it’s simply not possible to have another laptop for your personal use, take advantage of a different account on the laptop. You then can completely log out of your work account, including the work email account and the end of the day.
When you set up your personal account on your laptop –either a new laptop or simply a new account – resist the urge to include your work email account on that. Before long, you will look into that again even in your free time.
So keep work emails and work phone calls for work only – private email accounts and calls for your private accounts only!
The same is true for your phone. If all possible, get a different phone for your work and do not set up your work email account on your private phone.
Keep a clear distinction between your work day and private life.
7. Create a work day end routine
When you were working outside of your home, think about how you ended your work day. Most likely you cleaned up a bit, rinsed your coffee cup, placed your office chair to your desk, packed your personal items in your bag. Then you walk to your car, tuned on to your favorite music.. and so on.
This routine you followed every day – even unintentionally. And it helped your brain to realize that now your work day is over and you are free to focus on private matters for the rest of the day.
When you work from home, it’s good to do the same. Create a routine that you follow every week, every evening just before you end your day.
That could be:
- Creating a to-do list for the next day or week. About the benefits, we will talk a bit later.
- Look at your completed project tasks for the day
- Tidy up your desk. Have look also at our article THE CLEAN DESK PHILOSOPHY: INCREASE THE PRODUCTIVITY OF YOUR HOME OFFICE
- Wipe down your desk
- Close your work phone
- Turn on your favorite music
- …or something else you do every day
If you create such a routine by doing it every evening, you again putting your brain to relax and train it to stop thinking about work for the rest of the day.
8. Create a to-do list for the next day
We already talked about creating a to-do list as part of your end-of-work routine. But since this is important we want to talk about this bit more.
Did it happen in the past that you are waking up in the middle of the night because all of a sudden you remember an important task you forgot and something you cannot forget to do the next day? That is because our brain is much better in keep open tasks in mind than accomplished ones.
So if you want to stop worrying and meditating about a work deadline you cannot miss the next day or the email you just have to send out the next day, write it down before you leave your work.
This will give you peace of mind that you will keep track of your task and you can enjoy your time off after work.
9. Make it a rule not to talk about work-related things after work.
I know, this is not so easy. But you can force yourself to not doing it. Involve your partner and family and let them know that you are committed to not mentioning any work-related topics when you enjoy free time with them. And let them remember you whenever you still do it.
In time, you will automatically block out things that are related to work and help you to stop working – even mentally during your free time.
10. Make sure you are productive during your designated working hours.
Sometimes spending many hours late in the evening for work is the result of a lack of productivity during the day.
When you are working at home there ere are many distractions. Maybe kids are around, your partner may come in from time to time and ask for your help. There is mail delivery, of course as no one is watching you – there is always to danger to get distracted by browsing the internet or writing personal emails and so on.
We have a number of great articles that have valuable tips on how to stay productive and track completed tasks while working at home. Please have a look at the articles, as we cannot go over the many things that will help you in this article:
But it’s important to make the most out of your working hours. Then you also do not feel guilty when you stop working at your designated time.
Wrap up your day when it's done
So set clear boundaries to your workday. After all, this is your life and you don’t want to stick in your home office forever. So make the best out of the time when you work but stop when it’s time to do so.