The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work permanently, mostly for the good. There are no longer tiring commutes to work, you don’t have to be at your desk just to show your boss that you are working and you now get to live close to your loved ones away from crowded, expensive cities. All thanks to remote working!
But there are also serious negative consequences to the culture of being constantly connected. You are practically never away from work, so it’s extremely tough to disconnect and have an independent life outside of work.
In a survey of 892 individuals from top companies & freelancers by Remote Tools, 32% said they were working longer hours than before despite saving commute time. Another 33% said their biggest challenge was to separate work life and personal life.
Moreover, one-third of 728 individuals said that remote working was severely impacting their mental health, as pointed out in their state of work report 2021.
What is work-life balance for remote work?
Work-life balance is all about creating a healthy ratio of work and personal time. It's finding ways to enjoy your life outside of work, without letting work consume you.
Our tips for working from home talk about the work-life balance during remote work, this includes things like setting a remote work schedule and developing healthy habits for remote workers. By doing this, you can maintain a healthy work-life balance and avoid burnout.
Why is a good work-life balance so important?
While working from home can have its perks, there are also challenges that come along with it. It's always a good idea to take a step back and think about how you can best keep everything in balance.
Technology makes workers accessible around the clock, which can lead to longer hours. Fears of job loss can also incentivise longer hours. The stress from the never-ending workday can be damaging to your relationships, health and overall happiness.
Work-life balance means something different to every individual, but there are some tips that health and career experts share to help you find the balance that's right for you.
How to get a better work-life balance when working from home?
Work and personal life need to be consciously separated when working remotely. You need to set boundaries for yourself and strictly follow them. The flexibility you get from working remotely can be a double-edged sword if you are not careful about separating your work and personal life.
Truth is, most of us know that we need to attain a better work-life balance, but don’t really know how to go about it. Thankfully, there are people who’ve been working remotely for decades now and their advice really does work, and we are going to use just that. To help you get started on a positive work-life balance, check out these 8 tips.
Prioritize tasks and track where you spend your time
When you start your workday, make sure you have a list of the tasks you need to accomplish. Also, have a schedule in mind for these tasks. There are probably tasks in your list which can be carried over to the next day, so focus on the ones that need to be done first, or early in the day. You can try adopting a "big rocks first" motto.
Another important thing is to avoid distractions such as social media during the workday. Make use of a time tracking tool like Toggl to check whether you are actually dedicating the planned time to work. You might be surprised to find out the number of hours you mindlessly spend browsing through your Facebook feed.
Get an idea of where you spend your time during the day and consciously avoid unnecessary stuff. If needed, add trackers that automatically close the unnecessary apps you use during the day.
Use a separate set of tools
When you use the same laptop for everything, it gets difficult to avoid temptations. For example, every time you open a browser, you probably find yourself typing the URL into your mailbox instinctively. And then starts the cycle of replying to the mails and before you know it, you’ve spent an hour working when you didn’t need to.
Separating this is totally on you. If possible, use separate devices for work. Your work laptop shouldn’t be opened when you’re just chilling with Netflix on a Sunday. If you don’t see the point of having two computers, make sure that you at least have separate users on the same device or different browsers you use for different purposes.
Also, keep these tools away from your phone, unless absolutely necessary. Given remote teams are often distributed, your device would be buzzing with notifications at all odd hours.
Tools like Slack are very notorious for keeping you constantly connected with work so much so that it’s the last thing on your mind when you go to sleep and the first thing you check when you wake up!
The best way to avoid clicking on Slack notifications is by not receiving them outside of work hours.
Set hours where you do not work no matter what
You need to be conscious about your working hours. At the end of the day, there’ll always be “just one more” thing to do. This could have a negative impact on your work-life balance. So set a time where you do not start your computer and work no matter what happens.
Find times of the day where you are most productive and limit your work to that time. If you work best early on during the day, then make a decision to start your workday at say 8 am and end by 4 pm. Or you could have different intervals during the day where you prefer working. Whichever works for you, develop a routine and stick to it.
Make sure that you convey your work hours to your colleagues, too. They need to know when you are available and when you aren’t.
Schedule breaks during the day
If you find yourself having lunch at your work desk, or not having it at all, then your work-life balance needs to be seriously fixed. In an office, your colleagues or some other signal pushes you to take lunch or coffee breaks. But when you’re at home, with nobody to tell you, it gets tougher to take breaks.
Make sure to schedule a midday break and take it without fail. Not only one lunch break, but take other small breaks during the day. Simply walk around your house or go for a jog outside. Breaks are necessary to re-energize yourself or to help you get rid of a mental block. You can also engage in a hobby such as playing an instrument during the break.
Incorporate rituals marking the end of work time
Explicitly call it a day when you are done with work. You need to remind yourself that your workday is over at the end of it. To help you, you could have a 'Work is Over' mantra or slogan. Try calling it out loud at the end of each working day to tell yourself that you’re done.
Rituals are important if you want to create boundaries. For example, you could start every workweek with a walk to the nearby park. End each workweek in the same way. Whatever you find useful to set boundaries, use it as a solid reminder that there’s a rhythm to the workweek.
Keep the work away, physically
Don’t work from your bed or your couch or anywhere close to where you also spend personal time. Period. There is no second opinion when it comes to having a dedicated space at home where you work from. In addition, this also helps to clear your desk before you start work during the day and after you finish. Setting such physical boundaries gets you in the right mental space to plug in and unplug from work.
If it's tough for you to have a dedicated space/ room for work, you can still use other hacks. You can have a 'work basket' where you put everything related to work e.g. laptop, work diary etc. at the end of every day.
Focus on other things you’re passionate about
When you are passionate about something, you would naturally look forward to it after you’re done with work. It’s probably the best way to unplug from work and maintain a positive work-life balance.
If you are into fitness, you’d be excited about your evening workout. Or maybe you’re into playing music and have a new song in mind to learn on your guitar. To effectively disengage from work, you have to find other things that you can engage in.
Remote companies that have been around for a while, like Doist and Basecamp see a correlation between having a hobby outside of work and being a good remote worker. These companies also look out for this in their hiring process and go on to reward candidates who already have a passion for outside work.
Self-care is important
Do stuff that counts towards your overall well-being. Maintain a clean diet, exercise, get a good amount of sleep, and have time dedicated to leisure activities. You can try having a schedule for all such self-care activities and make sure to abide by it.
If you need, take days where you just play games on your computer and don’t feel guilty about it. You need to take care of yourself, and this means doing things that you actually enjoy.
In summary, if you want to improve your work-life balance when working remotely, you have to be extremely intentional about it. Remote working & globally distributed teams is the future of work. At such times, different communication and collaboration tools come to the rescue of teams. but while we adopt a superior form of working, we also need to ensure that we have a healthy balance between work and life.