2020 has led to a remarkable shift in how people live their lives. Commutes and school buses have been left behind. Cubicles and classrooms have been replaced with home offices and studies. With parents working, kids schooling, and everyone living in the same space, it can be difficult to stay focused on the task at hand at any one given moment.
If your family is cramming all of your regular activities onto the homefront, here are a few tips to help you build healthy boundaries as you all work, learn, rest, and play at home together.
Communication Is Key
Communication is the number one most important aspect of creating and maintaining boundaries. If you can’t communicate well with your family members, it becomes nearly impossible to peacefully cohabitate in the same space. This isn’t just referring to figuring out who works where or what times of the day you should be left alone. It also applies to more important boundary concerns.
Take a cue from the therapeutic community and do your best to identify your “triggers” as well as those of your household members. Encourage everyone to communicate openly about their triggers and work towards problem-solving with them. If someone gets annoyed by noise, for example, communication and problem solving can free the individual up to confidently request that the television be turned down or that they get a set of noise-canceling headphones to use while they’re working or doing their homework.
Another example could be communicating with a boss or teacher. Now is hardly the time to hide the fact that you have children or that you have roommates or siblings who share a room with you. On the contrary, being open and honest about your work- and school-from-home situations can help you address various boundary concerns whenever they arise without fear of negative repercussions from your professional or academic network.
One of the easiest and most powerful ways to set up and maintain boundaries in your household is to have everyone establish and sync up their daily routines. From sharing the bathroom in the morning to eating dinner as a family at the same time at night, having solid, predictable routines in place naturally provides a sense of structure.
Use your family’s routines to ensure that you’re collaborating together as you all attend to your various responsibilities throughout the day.
Dedicate Spaces …and Then Switch Them Up
You probably saw the recommendation to “dedicate a space” for work and school within weeks after the pandemic started — and with good reason, too. Dedicating a part of your home, even if it’s just a corner of your bedroom, is an ideal way to create an area where you can focus on work or school.
While dedicated spaces are helpful, though, at a certain point they can get old. As your interest in working in the same space every day fades, it becomes easier to shift and fidget your way around your home looking for a change of scenery.
If you want your family to respect everyone’s established boundaries, consider collectively switching up your dedicated spaces on a regular basis. Every month or even every week suggest swapping desks or work corners for a while. You can even choose a day of the week when everyone switches spaces for 24 hours before returning to their original spots.
The ability to switch things up in a structured way can help to clearly establish and maintain your family’s boundaries, even as they change over time.
Set Clear Expectations, Regularly
Boundaries aren’t a one-time deal. In other words, you can’t simply declare once that your bedroom is where you’re working and then expect your five-year-old to stay out of your room whenever you’re virtually on the job for the next few months. Even adults that you live with can come to forget about boundaries if given enough time and repetition.
If you want to keep your work-from-home boundaries healthy, it’s important to regularly set expectations. This requires a healthy dose of two-way communication throughout your home. If your child is going to take a test online, everyone in the house should be made aware of it beforehand.
If you’re about to hop onto a phone call, let the family know right there and then that you can’t be disturbed for the next half an hour. By consistently setting clear expectations, you can maintain a respectful sense of each other’s boundaries, even over extended periods of time.
Plan in Bonding Activities
Finally, with so many boundaries constantly being maintained, it’s also important to plan in time to just be a family together. From date nights with your significant other to family game nights and even group exercise sessions like a dance party or going for a walk, there are tons of activities that you can engage in as a family unit.
The important thing is that you plan purposeful time with each other outside of your work and school. This enables you to keep your family bond strong. It also encourages positive collaboration and healthy communication.
Building Healthy Boundaries on the Homefront
A year ago no one would have thought that boundaries on the homefront would be so important. One pandemic later, healthy boundaries are many family’s lifelines to maintaining their own sanity.
Fortunately, if you take the time to apply these tips, you’ll be able to cultivate a healthy set of boundaries within your home that will leave your family both closer and more productive than ever.
This guest post was authored by Maggie Potter
Maggie Potter is a freelance writer with a passion for women’s rights, technology and reducing her carbon footprint on the world. When not writing she dabbles in photography and recently, mountain biking in the Rocky Mountains.
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