Work and life are more intertwined than ever thanks to a drastic rise in remote work and an increasing dependency on technology. Remote work allows for greater flexibility in schedules and the lives of workers around the world. However, many of us struggle to disconnect from work, step away from our screens, and set a crystal-clear boundary between our digital and physical worlds. Working 24/7 – or simply feeling that you’re working 24/7 – Is a prescription for burnout as well as for low overall productivity. Here’s how to set some healthy boundaries when working remotely.
Keep regular hours
In times of rising unemployment and economic uncertainty, no one wants to be the one that’s [seen as] not pulling their weight. That can be compounded by employers that consider people working from home to, in effect, always be at work. It’s important to resist the pressure to work longer days, whether it comes from employers or yourself. Every office and job will be different, but you should fight to retain a similar amount of work while home as you had the office. That could mean your old 9-to-5 (or 8-to-4, or 10-to-6), or revising your shift to meet the needs of homebound kids or elderly parents. Whatever your circumstances, arrange a schedule that makes sense for you and your employer and stick to it.
If you set a schedule, stick to it. Nothing is more frustrating to colleagues or bosses than not getting a response when you’re supposed to be available. This doesn’t mean you have to respond within 10 minutes to their inquiries, but it does mean that you can’t be out-of-pocket for hours with no explanation.
Schedule personal activities during your free time
Even when you’re off the clock, it’s sometimes easier to keep working than to do things for yourself. In order to maintain a healthy work/life boundary, you have to deliberately plan things that make you happy. Schedule personal activities and have several go-to hobbies that you enjoy so you’ll have something specific to do with your personal time. If you don’t have anything planned, like a hike after work or a puzzle project, you may find it easier to slip back to work unnecessarily.
Have a literal office space
There’s a reason why offices exist: they help you get into work mode. If you let work spill into the rest of your home, it may not only affect your work productivity; it may make you feel less at home at the end of the day. Having a specific office space, whether in a guest bedroom, a true home office, or just the corner of a shared space, can help you get into work mode each day. Put your laptop in a drawer or closet when you’re done with work, so you don’t see it and feel tempted to jump back in. Start and end your workday with some kind of ritual that signals to your brain that it’s time to change from work to personal or vice versa.
Structure in the age of remote work is much more challenging because you have fewer natural boundaries. But it is possible (and necessary) to make and keep boundaries in these three areas for a more productive, enjoyable, and sustainable lifestyle. By creating and upholding strong boundaries with yourself, household, and team at work, you’ll invite less stress and more ease into your life. And just maybe, you’ll enjoy more moments of true work-life balance.
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