Many of us have been working from home for some time now. At first, I assumed it would be a short-term solution to be safe from COVID. But after all these months it occurred to me (OK, maybe I’m a little slow) that working from home is going to be a long-term situation.

My home life is a little different from most people’s in that I don’t have children, but I am the sole caregiver for my 100-year-old mother who lives with me. She’s in very good health but has trouble with her short-term memory, which leads to many interesting situations. In many ways, it’s like living with a 3-year-old with a mind of her own. She’s also as big as I am and not any more likely to respond to “it’s for your own good” than a 3-year-old would.

I decided I needed to make a clear separation of work and home. When I was working in the office, I’d start work at the same time and end at the same time. At home, I had a tendency to work past my usual quitting time if there was work to do. This was not work that had to be done that day, but it was there, and I was there, so it was very hard to ignore. But this would cut into my downtime which everyone needs, and my dinner preparation time, which was stressful with my mother wanting to eat now—or worse, wanting to help. Have you ever had a 3-year-old “help” you make dinner?  Enough said.

The other thing I did was separate my work area and living area. I had been working at the dining room table so I could keep an eye on things, which was very distracting and unnecessary. So, I set up my desk in a room with a door I could close when doing virtual meetings or concentrating. By the way, I made that sound simple, but it wasn’t. It took some rearranging, jury-rigging and a 90-minute call with IT to get it set up. But I can tell you, it was worth the trouble.

I’m still trying to fight the urge to turn on my computer over the weekend. Having it in another room has made its siren call a little harder to hear. Give me strength!

Don’t misunderstand, I really do like working from home. It has allowed me to spend time with my mother, which I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. It’s also allowed me to keep her out of an institution, which I’m very grateful for.

After taking my own advice these past few weeks, I feel a lot less stressed. There are still days when I must work late. But learning to roll with the punches has allowed me pick up dinner from a local restaurant without feeling guilty. In fact, I might start doing it more often. I’m supporting my local community. I don’t have to cook or clean up. And both Mom and I are getting tired of my cooking!

I realize many people are struggling to find balance when work and life overlap. An employee assistance program can help you overcome these challenges. Our website discusses the many benefits of the FEI EAP—for employees and their organizations.