When Others Think You Are Available Because You Work from Home

3 min read
2 July 2024
When Others Think You Are Available Because You Work from Home

A few weeks ago, I had to meet with a colleague who asked me to go to her house to work on our common project. In my two hours there, her family interrupted her several times, even though it was in the middle of a workday.

I observed her harmonious and gentle demeanour as she dealt with these interruptions while apologising to me every time it happened. A meeting that could have taken 45 minutes ended up taking a few hours instead. This experience prompted me to write this post because more people than ever are experiencing the unique challenges and benefits of working from home.

While the flexibility and comfort of home-based work are undeniable, they come with their own problems. One of the most common and frustrating issues is the assumption by others that because you work from home, you are available.

This misconception can lead to misunderstandings, continuous disruptions, and even burnout. I have put together a few ideas that you might want to consider to navigate this delicate situation if this is happening to you.

Understanding the Misconception

The idea that working from home equates to being perpetually available stems from a lack of understanding about what remote work entails. Many people still associate “work” with being physically present in an office from 9 to 5. When they hear “work from home,” they might imagine you lounging on the couch with a laptop, free to take calls, run errands, or socialise anytime.

The Challenge for People Pleasers

For those who are people-pleasers and strive for harmony in the environment, this situation can be particularly challenging. People-pleasers might often want to be available for others to help, listen, and assist wherever necessary.

The pressure to always be there for friends and family can become overwhelming when combined with work responsibilities. It’s crucial to recognise that setting boundaries is not about being selfish; it’s about protecting your time and energy so you can be fully present when you engage with others.

Communicating Boundaries

Clear and consistent communication is one of the first steps to managing this misconception. Here are a few strategies:

  • Set Clear Work Hours: Establish and communicate your working hours to family, friends, and colleagues. Let them know that these hours are dedicated to your job, as if you were in an office.

  • Create a Dedicated Workspace: If possible, set up a specific area in your home dedicated solely for work. This physical boundary can help reinforce the mental separation between work time and personal time.

  • Use Visual Signals: Simple cues like closing the door to your workspace, wearing headphones, or having a “Do Not Disturb” sign can signal to others that you are in work mode and not to be interrupted.

  • Be Assertive and Consistent: Don’t be afraid to assert your boundaries. If someone calls or visits during work hours, politely remind them that you are working and will be available later.

  • Find a Co-working Space: If working from home becomes too distracting or you need a change of environment, consider finding a nearby co-working space. These spaces are designed for focused work and can provide a professional setting that separates work from home life.

Educating Others

Sometimes, the best way to change perceptions is through education. Explain to those around you what your work entails and why uninterrupted time is crucial for productivity. Share your daily schedule or the nature of your tasks to help them understand that working from home doesn’t mean you are always free.

Prioritising Self-Care

Balancing work and personal life is essential to avoid burnout, especially for people pleasers. Here are some self-care tips for remote workers:

  • Take Regular Breaks: Schedule short  breaks to rest and recharge during the day. This can help maintain your productivity and well-being.

  • Set End-of-Day Rituals: Create a routine that signals the end of your workday, such as shutting down your computer, changing clothes, or going for a walk.

  • Engage in Stress-Relief Activities: Dedicate time to activities that help you unwind and relieve stress, such as journaling, meditation, or exercising.

Working from home offers unparalleled flexibility and comfort, but setting and communicating boundaries is essential to ensure that others respect your work time. Establishing clear work hours, creating a dedicated workspace, considering co-working spaces, and educating those around you can help you manage the misconception that you are always available.

Prioritising self-care and being assertive about your needs will help you maintain a healthy work-life balance and thrive in your remote work environment.


  1. Fried, J., & Hansson, D. H. (n.d.). Remote: Office not required.
  2. Dawson, S. (n.d.). The art of working remotely: How to thrive in a distributed workplace.
  3. Cook, I. (2020). Why working from home isn't necessarily good for women. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/07/why-working-from-home-isnt-necessarily-good-for-women
  4. Oakman, J., Kinsman, N., Stuckey, R., Graham, M., & Weale, V. (2020). A rapid review of mental and physical health effects of working at home: How do we optimise health? BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1825. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09875-z

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