Setting Boundaries When Working from Home


2020 is a year many would like to start over. We were barely halfway into the first quarter when the world around us started shutting down one country at a time in response to the Coronavirus Global Pandemic: the world went into ‘Lockdown’.

Control the Controllables

Overnight individuals and organisations found themselves doing the unthinkable: working remotely without a plan, policies, infrastructure, or technology (in most cases) as well as homeschooling, dog walking, cat wrangling, relationship navigating and mental health managing.

Day to day life was a case of ‘survival’ meets ‘the show must go on’ with everyone finding themselves way out of their own personal comfort zones fighting fires and making things up as they went along.

In a situation like this the only thing we could do was to: “Take control of that which you can control” ~ Stephen Covey

So that’s exactly what we did, going above and beyond, doing whatever it took, whenever it needed to be done.

A New Approach

With the virus coming under control and the spread of new infection slowing we find ourselves moving into the next chapter, a ‘Global Unlock’.

Working remotely (from home) has become the ‘new normal’ while offices are adapted to allow a safe return. This makes it a great time to review what’s working, what’s not and to design a more sustainable approach to living and working from home.

Working from Home

The question that you and your organization needs to asking itself has moved on from where it was at the start of 2020: What needs to be done to survive in a pandemic, to: What needs to be done to ensure that I/we thrive in the next phase.

Everyone is in a different situation now. Below are 5 questions I recommend you ask yourself. Take some time to think about them and write down the answers, working out what you can take responsibility for, who in your life you can ask for help and what you can ask them to support you with, and finally if possible identify who in your organization you can or need to speak to about the remaining things.

Questions to Consider

  1. What hours do I need to work to perform my role and take care of the responsibilities I currently have at home?
  2. What flexibility do I currently need to do that most efficiently?
  3. What kind of routine do I need to implement to ensure that my productivity is sustainable and not burnout-inducing?
  4. What support do I need both inside and outside of work?
  5. Am I making time for myself each day to recharge my batteries (self-care)?

Boundaries and Routine

Now that you have a better understanding of your remote working set up, and you’ve done the hard part of asking for help, it’s time to talk about things you can try, to avoid spending 14 hours a day doing your 8 hours of work.

The first thing to decide and agree is what time you will start work (this may vary from day to day), then you’ll need to decide what time lunch will be (do you have a family/partner/pets to consider?) finally what time would you like to finish work (again this may vary from day to day).

Now that you have your parameters in place, it’s time to fill in the gaps with your role and responsibilities, organization, preparation, research, coordination, and projects that you are working on.

Then it’s a question of testing out different routines until you find the one that works for you, understanding that we live in a rapidly evolving world, what works one day might need tweaking to work the next.

Finally, once you have gone through this process you will be in a better position to set and maintain boundaries. Having a much clearer understanding of your personal circumstances, the support and time that you have available each day and the job requirements, will make it easier for you to say no to anything that is not part of that plan (unless of course it is a new activity that your manager would like you to replace an old task with that’s now no longer business critical).


Abigail Barnes is an award-winning entrepreneur, author and expert speaker and corporate trainer on time management and holistic productivity. She is the founder of Success by Design Training, a qualified coach and creator of the renowned 888 Formula. Success by Design Training is on a mission to help 1 million individuals get better work/life balance by 2025, improve their productivity & general wellbeing.

This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication for administrative professionals. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at to find out more or to get your 30% discount email [email protected] and tell them we sent you.

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