3 Proven Strategies to Find Work-Life Balance for Remote Workers
The joys of working remotely are self-evident: cutting on costs associated with transportation and Starbucks chit-chat with co-workers, a remote professional can dedicate their resources to something more meaningful. Seeing the rise of remote work, both employers and employees try this way of working themselves.
However, we sometimes confuse “way of working” with “way of living”, as remote work becomes ingrained in our everyday life — after all, your work laptop is not really work laptop, but a device that accompanies you throughout the whole day. As the workday comes to an end, your work laptop is still with you — patiently waiting and ready to help you be productive even in the off-hours.
This mindset becomes a great recipe for burnout, ultimately leading to less creativity, less passion for work and less productivity. So how can this pitfall be avoided? Studies show: by finding work-life balance. In this article, we will explore a number of techniques and strategies that will help you preserve it while working remotely.
Set deadlines and limits
Our in-office colleagues have one big advantage: they know the limits of their workplace environment. As commute becomes a little ritual in and of itself, they can easily transition their mindset from personal life to work — just as easily as they transition their physical selves via subway or a car. As for remote workers, they have to play this transition process out in their own morning rituals. The moment you get out of bed is the moment you should start working, right?
After getting up and having breakfast, it is tempting to jump right in the middle of the corporate action as soon as possible — but is your mind ready? As evidenced by this study, there must be a gradual transition between waking up and getting busy with an intellectual-heavy workload. Many remote workers note that creating a morning routine (that involves simple tasks like making coffee, checking news or exercising) before work helps them get their minds right. In other words, a healthy morning routine prepares you for the work-day via slowly exposing you to different activities with increasing difficulty.
Another caveat is this simple notion: Overworking ≠ Overproductive. It does not matter how many hours a remote professional is putting in if they feel tired or burnt-out. Although the amount and distribution of “productive hours” vary from person to person, researchers agree that it is impossible to stay productive throughout the whole day — this is why we utilize systems like the Pomodoro Technique to try and leverage our energy levels for maximum work efficiency.
This is where setting a strict work schedule comes in handy: we put a real-time constraint on our work by declaring that Task A is due Date B. In this scenario, the goal is not to work for 10 hours straight just to finish the task in time; instead, remote professionals should organize, divide, and plan their work to complete it without having to work overtime. After all, the habit of working overtime does not signify the effectiveness of the company’s business processes — we would argue it is simply a hallmark of disorganization.
To solve this problem, remote workers can turn to productivity tools like time-tracking software: these programs encourage their users to focus on the given task (dividing it into smaller ones, in case it is too time-consuming) and monitor how much time is spent on it. Once the working hours are finished (but not necessarily the task at hand!), it is time to
How is this beneficial? By working less, we get to work better and more efficiently. Additionally, we save energy that can be later used for activities outside of work — spending time with the family or working on your side project.
Set up and restrict your workspace
Just like a brick-and-mortar office environment, a designated workplace in your home plays an important role in creating a productive atmosphere. Once you have an actual workplace (be it a whole study or just an IKEA table), you will find it much easier to retain concentration, as your brain would be able to differentiate between work and casual activities.
When establishing the border between your “work” and “home” selves, it is also important to prevent home distractions from bothering you: in some cases, it takes a serious discussion with your family or roommates to explain just what this new trend called “remote work” means. Well, simply put, it means this:
Although I’m physically here in this house, in reality, I’m at my workplace and would appreciate if you respect that. The importance of this phrase lies in remote workers’ most valuable resource — focus.
As focus gets shattered by the never-ending minutiae of everyday life, work requires more and more time — and subsequently, we may find ourselves borrowing from our free time. On the other hand, if we try and maintain our focus, we will get work done faster and more efficiently — and then celebrate this success with family and friends.
Some remote workers even go as far as to put their usual office clothes on; although they may seem to negate the very point of remote work (i.e. making comfy pajamas the dress code for your personal workplace), this trick helps to stay aware that remote work is equally serious
How is this beneficial? By creating a virtual workspace (well, not virtual as in VR), we protect our focus from any distractions that our environment may contain. Better focus allows for efficient work, no overtime and no burnouts — remote professionals could not ask for more! 🙂
Be Active Outside of Work
Although it is great to be truly passionate about your work, many remote professionals feel that their job completely defines them. Sometimes it is their calling (which many doctors, engineers and other members of different professions can relate to), but sometimes lack of the work-life balance makes people think that their job is in their DNA — and any other job is out of the question.
This mindset will encourage the remote worker to grow vertically (i.e. develop their job-related skills) but may prevent them from growing horizontally — developing competencies outside their work field. As life gets ever so complex, it is vital for a remote professional to be prepared for the possibility of a turnover. Having woken up from their dream job and having lost it, a remote worker starts to appreciate that other skills play another major role in their life: financial planning, networking, fortitude, and so on.
The best time to start is now — and a good way to start is to pick up a hobby (or come back to the one you had no time for). Hobbies and other activities can actually match your main profession, contributing to your hard skills: for a sales manager, for instance, a debate club can be a fun way to unwind from work, while still maintaining a healthy competition with club members. This allows for better socialization: having your co-workers as friends is a great fortune that many people just do not have (maybe their remote teams feel barely connected and they need to solve this problem?), so finding people you enjoy talking to is much easier in an environment where your interests are common.
How is this beneficial? Activities for fun and enjoyment help remote workers deal with work stress and acquire new skills.
The work-life balance is definitely dependent on your current life situation — sometimes it is practically impossible to achieve it. However, we still believe that building healthy habits (like the ones we’ve described in this article) will help you sort everything out. 🙂 And with a press of a “Share” button, you can easily help other people — imagine your friends finally have more free time to hang out!