With remote working pretty much here to stay, it’s important for each and every one of us to set work/life boundaries when working from home. It’s not just important for our well-being and mental health, but also for our career development. You don’t want your work ambitions to be cut short by avoidable burnout, after all!
Even those of us who think we have it nailed might find we are still checking those emails a little too much, after hours. Or maybe you’ve felt a pang of guilt at not being as available at weekends as some of your co-workers. If that’s you, then don’t worry - you’re not alone. In fact, a worrying 48% of Americans consider themselves to be workaholics. However, this is not the way it has to be. Getting a work/life balance is essential for your health and wellbeing so make sure it’s a priority in your home working strategy. Read on to discover some top tips on how to set work/life boundaries when working remotely.
Agree on boundaries with your team.
Getting a good work/life balance won’t be achievable without buy-in and support from your colleagues and your manager. If your usual hours are 9-5 pm then you should try your best to stick to that. If your hours fluctuate, let your team know when you will be available and keep your schedule updated.
If you feel boundaries are blurring or people are asking too much of you, you need to let them know - diplomatically of course! It’s really unlikely that your team are hoping to ruin your evening with a late email or update. The chances are they think you’ll get to it in the morning anyway. But if you do feel your private time is being impinged on, you need to have that discussion and explain what your boundaries are, and why they are important to you. You might even give them something to think about with their own work/life balance!
Create a dedicated workspace
If at all possible, use a different room or space in your home to work from. Rolling out of bed into your office is never going to give you that sense of balance you’re striving for. Naturally, not everyone has this luxury. If you don’t have an alternative space, consider hanging a divider or investing in a nice desk, chair or plant to make your space feel a bit more special and comfortable.
Fill your calendar with free-time activities
Whether you’re a committed social butterfly or a lone wolf, make sure you schedule plenty of fun/educational/relaxing activities every week. Time tends to move in a different way when we’re working remotely and it’s easy for days and even months to drift by without devoting time to hobbies or interests. Even if you’re not one for planned activities, set some time aside to go for a short hike, or visit a museum. If you need motivation why not plan a meetup with a friend or colleague on a regular basis.
Establish boundaries with your household
So far, we have only discussed boundaries with work and colleagues, but it’s equally important to establish boundaries with your friends, housemates, partners, and families. If you have young children or people that count on you, this might not be possible (but you do need to make these factors clear to your boss if you haven’t already) - but as far as possible, try to agree on some rules or guidelines that make it easy and comfortable to commit to work tasks in your agreed working hours.
Shutting doors or creating a physical divide is a good idea, as is hanging a “do not disturb” sign during video calls or when you need privacy. Make sure you show your appreciation for the flexibility your co-habitants show and remember to repay the favor when they need some privacy!
Be strict about your days off
It’s often tempting to catch up on just one task at the weekend or update on a project when on holiday. Where possible, resist this urge and take your time off seriously. Remember how uncomfortable it makes you feel if your boss replies to an email when you know they’re away having important downtime with their loved ones? That’s not the ‘you’ you’re aiming for!
Take a break
Sometimes the coordination of schedules with colleagues doesn’t allow for a specific time for your daily lunch break but you should always try to take at least half an hour away from your desk every day, if not more. For those of you committed to your phones, this means dedicated time away from your screen if possible. Get some air, do some pushups, cook something tasty and nourishing, phone your mom… whatever activity will help you feel removed from your workload and workspace so you can return invigorated, relaxed and with that work/life balance achieved.
We hope these tips for getting a better work/life balance when working remotely have been helpful. Don’t worry if you don’t get it the right first time, some habits are hard to break! Keep reminding yourself of the benefits and ask your colleagues and manager to support you in your efforts. And don’t forget to let us know how you get on via our social channels!
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