How Do Interior Designers Maintain a Work-life Balance?
Follow these 7 simple tips to find more leisure time in your day without compromising your work
Contributions from: Sacha Berger of Honey Bee Interiors; Fiona Duke of Fiona Duke Interiors; Kirsty Niven of Kirstyelizabeth Interiors; Bhavin Taylor of Bhavin Taylor Design; Yoko Kloeden of Yoko Kloeden Design
In the midst of a busy schedule, you might not even be aware that work’s taking over. It’s important to find time to assess whether there’s a problem before you can find a solution.
Sacha Berger, for example, acknowledges that she can often take on too much work. “I really try to appreciate the benefits of being my own boss, but at the same time I won’t let clients down,” she says. “If anything, I need to know sometimes when to turn work down, as I want to give each project the time and attention it needs. This is something I’m working on this year.”
Fiona Duke has realised that she lets lists run through her brain at night. “I’ll often think of random things in the night and have to jot these down so they can be released from my head,” she says. “I sometimes get into the bad habit of ‘scrolling’ on my phone just before bed and then I start thinking of specific projects and my mind starts racing. I’m trying to stop doing this when I can, as I know it doesn’t help.”
If you work for yourself, you have the freedom to devise your own office hours, but even if you’re part of a team, it’s still possible to create a schedule that suits you and your colleagues. Identify your priorities and think about how you can find a balance that allows you to be as productive as possible within a particular timeframe.
Kirsty Niven says that one of the positives of being her own boss and not having a traditional nine-to-five is that she can balance work and family life. “Monday to Friday, I try to ensure my working hours are when the kids are at school,” she says. “I conduct most of my meetings during these hours so that when the kids get home from school, I’m there and engaged with them.”
It’s also possible to take time out of your usual schedule, as long as you can make up the hours another time. “If I want to have a girlie lunch in the week, sometimes I’ll choose to do that,” Sacha says. “Then I just spend a day on the weekend or an evening catching up on the project.”
Think of time away from work as essential for both physical and mental health, as well as a way to boost productivity. By realising its importance, you’re more likely to plan it in.
“As I’m on my own all day, it’s really beneficial to have some connection throughout the day,” Sacha says. “I really try to take on as much as I can, and at times it can be quite overwhelming, but I prioritise, including things in my life that I enjoy doing.”
“I make sure I go to scheduled gym classes to ensure I have to stop working in time for them,” Bhavin Taylor says. “This method can be applied to any hobby you enjoy – just set regular times for them and do your best to stick to them.”
Both Fiona and Sacha take some of their leisure-time cues from the schedules of their four-legged friends.
“Maggie, my Havanese, is usually with me in my office, so I walk her during the day, which is a good way of ensuring I get some fresh air and exercise,” Fiona says. “Even when I think I don’t have time to go for a walk, she’s a reminder that she needs to go out – and actually so do I. Just a small time away from my desk does improve productivity levels.”
“Walking my dog in the morning is a must, as I meet a group [of women] with dogs,” Sacha says. “Just having that hour in the morning with good chat and connection really starts my day off well.”
“The tricky part of being an interior designer is that, for clients, planning a house renovation is something they do in the evenings and on weekends while we designers work during office hours,” Yoko Kloeden says. “This can result in clients sending texts and messages when we’re relaxing at home.”
“With so much done through our phones, it’s too easy for us interior designers to sit down in the evening and message or respond to clients, arrange meetings and source things,” Kirsty says. “Putting my phone away after 9pm is key to switching off. I watch something on TV with my husband for an hour and then read before switching the light out at 11pm.”
Bhavin agrees and recommends switching off email alerts on your phone. “This allows you to be in control of when you check your emails, rather than constantly checking them outside of office hours every time your phone beeps,” he says. “I find settling into my favourite TV shows can be a great way to escape my work thoughts, especially when you get sucked in. It relaxes me and distracts me from thinking about things that could be going on with particular projects.”
One of the most effective things you can do to ensure work doesn’t merge into home life is to be firm about the division. “Set boundaries with clients,” Bhavin advises. “Let them know you’ll only respond to texts or emails outside of office hours if they’re urgent.”
Yoko also sets boundaries with clients and asks them to send emails rather than WhatsApp messages. “We also have an internal policy not to send emails to clients outside of office hours, even when we’re working late,” she says. “You can schedule time that emails go out to the following morning.
“I don’t check my work emails on weekends and holidays and our staff members aren’t allowed to, either,” she adds. “Mental health is hugely important if you’re to have a sustainable business.”
Of course, a separate room or garden office isn’t possible for everyone, but you can even create boundaries by simply switching off your computer at the end of a working day. This will prevent the temptation to quickly check emails while walking past your desk.
Take the time to organise your work systems in order to be as productive as possible within office hours. For example, try creating templates for invoices and proposals, so you can quickly send them off with minimal fuss.
You can create templates for vital documents by using a management software system, such as Houzz Pro. With this type of technology, you can easily create moodboards and 3D floorplans, too. You’ll also be able to quickly log your time schedule, and communicate and share information with your client throughout the project.
Whichever system you use, it makes sense to take advantage of technology to free up time and avoid your work blending into your home life.
Do you find it challenging to maintain a work-life balance? Share your thoughts and advice in the Comments.