5 Tips to Work-Life Boundaries When Working Remotely
Work-life boundaries are good for business. Employers offering work/life balance initiatives help to increase morale, engagement and work satisfaction, and decrease stress and burn-out. We usually talk about work/life balance when our lives in general are so busy because we have so much to do and so little time to do it. In time, trying our best to juggle everything at once gets overwhelming and stressful. This is especially a struggle when working remotely: we can work from anywhere, which means work is virtually everywhere! Work follows us around! Moreover, when working from home, work and life are basically the same place! So how do we handle the pressure? What coping strategies do we use? One way is trying to create boundaries in different aspects of our lives. In such case, compartmentalizing can be a good thing. We have 5 tips here to help you strike a balance when the line separating life from work gets blurry and stressful.
Create physical boundaries
Work-life boundaries means boundaries made between work and life, and they are easier to respect when we can see where they are. For those working from home, you probably already have a home office. To create clear boundaries, make sure there is a space created for the sole purpose of work. Every time you enter that space, make sure you are doing work, nothing else. When you need a break or deal with things unrelated to work (like a personal matters), cultivate the discipline to physically exit that work space. If such physical workspace is not possible (for example, you live in a tiny space in which your living space triples as a bedroom, living room and office), consider getting dressed in work attire or putting a nameplate on your desk as you are about to start working. This would mentally help switching into a ‘let’s get stuff done!’ mode.
For those working elsewhere than home, like coworking spaces, parks, transportation, consider these ideas: to pack work-related items only, a playlist dedicated for work only; a work laptop and devices (if you have the same work/life devices, customize ringtones, and desktop backgrounds).
Set a schedule and stick to it. Yes, including breaks and vacation.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Of course not, you’re a human. And as humans, we all work and live differently. Identify what time of day works best for you and abide by it. A way to a happier life is a productive one, and that means to fully embrace the work you are doing while doing it and fully enjoy the life activities you are doing as they happen rather than wishing you were doing something else. Because at the end of the day, take comfort in knowing that you have set time for work and life to create a healthy life balance. Work-life boundaries also apply to taking breaks during the work day and vacations throughout the year! A little rest or distraction does a ton to keep a healthy balance. It is restorative and gives us something exciting to look forward to.
For an easy way to track team Vacations throughout the year, look no further than Vacation Tracker. Try a demo to see if this absence and leave tracking software could work for your remote team!
Keep your mental health in check
Depending on the frequency needed (say, every day before lunchtime), practice regular self-monitoring. Make a mental scan of your being from head to toe, and take notice of what first grabs your attention: is your head pounding? Are you obsessing over one thought? Are you smiling? Do you feel thirsty? Is your heart beating crazy fast? Do you catch yourself sighing a lot? How would you qualify your breathing? Do you have an upset stomach? How’s your posture? Are your hands shaking? Are you full of pep? Tensed up? Laser focused? Look for signs of stress, anxiety, negative feelings or painful discomfort and react accordingly to mitigate them. Take a walk, have a glass of water, dance your worries away, call a friend for some venting off, watch a funny clip. Be proactive. Don’t wait for things to get serious before you act. But if they do, don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek a health professional. A support system is vital.
Set “Off limits” rules
Identify how you handle incoming emails, phone calls, meetings and deadlines and what strategies best work for you. Establish when is it appropriate to answer them and when they become disruptive. Some prefer answering as they receive them; others prefer sticking to an ‘opening hours’ policy on their business phone. Some are motivated by fast-paced, multitasking and highly active environments while others function by getting things done one task at a time with lots of breaks in between. Examples of “off limits” rules to stand by: no work-related phone calls on week evenings after 6pm, “Do not disturb” or “airplane” mode applications, avoid work-related items in the bedroom, keep the office room door shut on weekends. Work-life boundaries is a matter of managing both obligations in a way that won’t sacrifice our sanity.
Free yourself using the magical word
Just say “no”. When life gets too stressful or out of control, feel comfortable refusing to take part in things that are less of a priority to you and learn to recognize your limits. Many among us are prone to help others and please, show up, stay longer, go the extra mile, or take pride tackling more stuff and challenge ourselves. Which is why it can be difficult to say no and feel like a letdown. With the limited time you have available, evaluate how you want to spend it, what activities you find more fulfilling and make your decision. Sure, it means saying no to other things, but most of us are time poor and realistically we can’t do it all, so in the end, let’s do what brings us joy. And once said, especially when expressed respectfully, people can be understanding and empathize. Besides, it is completely worth the sense of relief and lightness.
Shirley is a Vacation Tracker occasional contributor. She’s held a few positions in communications, marketing and copywriting. When she’s not at her laptop, you can find her daydreaming about her laptop and chasing the sun while people watching.