5 ways to WFH with a full house

June 4, 2020

By Jennifer Fossenbell

Not every work from home situation looks the same. Those who live alone face different challenges from those working alongside roommates or family members. Some may have technical or environmental obstacles to overcome, not to mention personal or emotional ones. By getting organized, making strategic choices, and communicating openly, you can work more effectively at home when you have a houseful of people. We’ve rounded up our top five tips to help you work and live better with a full house.

1. Set clear boundaries with your “co-workers”

Maintaining healthy work-life balance is vital — both for your productivity and for overall well-being. While you work in a house where others are on the job and/or learning online, it’s important (and complicated) to balance everyone’s needs. Trying to work while your partner is on a call in the next room or your kids are online learning (with Fido scratching at the door and the dishwasher running) can be overwhelming and distracting. To find a good balance (and some peace and quiet), establish ground rules with your housemates to keep your work lives as separate from each other’s as possible, while also maintaining a space for your personal lives. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Give each person in the family their own dedicated space and supplies for working or learning. If one or more people have to share a space, like using the kitchen table as a desk for school, that’s okay. Designate the times during which it will be set up and used strictly for that purpose – and stick to it.
  • Create an indoor or outdoor break room (and a play space for young kids) where you can go to relax, grab a snack and check-in. You can even try to schedule common break times to give everyone a chance to step away from their individual tasks and connect a couple of times each day.
  • Use different messaging platforms or profiles for your work and personal/family communications. That way, you can more easily turn off notifications for one of them while you focus on the other.

2. Follow a schedule

It helps to set a schedule and stick to it as much as you can. Remember: don’t expect perfection, especially right now. Working towards more regular times for meals, exercise, work and study shifts for all members of the household, will help you get better at maintaining those all-important boundaries for work and home life. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Print out a daily or weekly schedule that includes everyone in your home. Post it in your respective office spaces and in the kitchen or a hallway where all can see it and stay in the loop.
  • Include major internet needs in your schedule. Define when each household member can stream video or have a videoconference. Ease slow internet woes by making sure everyone isn’t trying to do high-bandwidth activities at the same time.
  • Put your phone alarm to full use. Choose distinct alarm sounds to signal when it’s time to work out, start work, end work or take breaks. For younger children, ring a school bell (real or digital) on schedule to signal the start and end of class sessions.
  • Build some flex time into your schedule each day to help account for unforeseen issues and protect the non-negotiable tasks.

3. Stay connected… but not too connected!

While there are many benefits to having family or roommates at home, spending all your time in the same space can also lead to connection overload. The constant presence of your housemates can put a strain on your home relationships and make you feel more removed from your professional ones. It’s important to find a balance in your alone time, family time, and work time. In addition to getting a break from work, you also need to get regular breaks from the members in your household! 

Here are some ideas:

  • Get some face time! Set up video-on meetings for your work teams at least once a week. It’s good to see each other’s faces in real-time and catch up on a more personal level without always focusing on work. Set aside 15 minutes of a regular meeting as a coffee chat, or book a team happy hour.
  • Don’t be afraid to highlight wins with your boss and peers. Sharing the whole team’s successes boosts a sense of positive connection (and productivity).
  • Maintain a policy of open communication with all members of your household by holding weekly meetings to share concerns and problem-solve together. Be proactive about tackling issues to avoid major problems down the road.
  • Get creative about finding times for everyone in the house to get alone time. Consider taking walks, having “quiet time” in a room by yourself (that’s not work time), or going on drives. 

4.  Maintain focus

If you find that at any given moment you have four messaging platforms, three email accounts several social media apps dinging at you, and one or more humans at your elbow asking you a question, you’re not alone. It’s tricky to balance everything that wants our attention all at once! However, constant multitasking can cause stress and attention fatigue, leading to less engagement in both your personal and professional life. By compartmentalizing tasks, notifications, and your family/work time, you can focus on the task at hand and tackle everything that needs to be done in a timely manner. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Use a time-tracking tool like Toggl or RescueTime to help you track the hours you spend doing different tasks. After a week of gathering data, you’ll have a great sense of where your time goes and where you can save some. Make adjustments as needed.
  • Identify your “small fry” tasks that are relatively simple and fast to complete, and your “big fish” tasks that take deeper focus. Plan longer blocks during your most productive parts of the day to wrestle with the big fish. You can squeeze in the small fries during smaller chunks of time.
  • Customize your email and social media app notifications so you’re not inundated with bells and whistles when you need to focus.
  • Set “do not disturb” hours on your phone so that while you’re working, you can ignore incoming personal messages and calls.
  • Be firm about ignoring work messages or emails when you’re with your family or taking personal time. Resist the temptation to be on call 24/7 and whether you’re working, cooking, or parenting, be present.

5. Set up a good workspace free from distractions

It’s worth committing some time and resources to making your home office — whether it’s a private room or a corner of the bedroom — as comfortable as possible. Desk-based work can easily become a strain on the body and mind when your setup is less than ideal. Plus, creating a special area for work will allow you to create clear demarcations between your work and home life.

Here are some ideas:

  • Create an office space that is for work only and make it as private as you can. If there’s no door, use a curtain, screen or tall piece of furniture to create a visual boundary. Privacy at last!
  • Have every member of the household create a signal to show others when they are working or learning and cannot be interrupted. It could mean wearing a special hat or scarf, putting a certain object out on the desk, or hanging a “CAUTION: Do Not Disturb” sign on your chair. Have fun with it!
  • Use a white noise machine, noise-canceling headphones or music to help drown out household noise while you’re focused on work.
  • If you suffer from arm, back or neck fatigue, consider buying a more ergonomic chair or a convertible workstation that allows you to move from standing to sitting throughout the day.
  • Set up your desk as close as possible to your modem to increase wireless performance. If slow internet is an issue, consider plugging your computer directly into your modem with an Ethernet cable to eliminate the WiFi impact. 
  • A few plants (real or fake), a bright lamp and some pictures can go a long way toward making your workspace more pleasant to be in for hours each day.

Every work from home situation is unique. Whether you’re surrounded by roommates, have a household full of family members, or have a needy (and loving) pet demanding your attention, finding the right balance between work and your personal life is key. With clear communication, some careful planning, and a little effort, you’ll be on the road to WFH success whatever your circumstances. 


What else would you add? Share your work from home tips with us @CenturyLinkHome on social media! 

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