Strategies for Better (Remote) Work-Life Balance
It’s 2022, and the work environment has significantly changed since the onset of the pandemic.
Remote work has played a key role in the shift.
Today more than 4.7 million people work remotely at least half the time in the U.S. Meanwhile, 16% of all global companies are completely remote. And 57 million Americans, or over 17% of the general population, freelance in some capacity.
Now, remote work has a number of perks. Employees who work from home have unprecedented flexibility, can create their ideal workspace, and no longer have to commute.
That said, there are also challenges involved in working remotely. Among them is a perceived lack of work-life balance, as the bounds between work home become increasingly blurred.
So what’s the solution? Like most things in life, working from home features a unique blend of benefits and drawbacks. There are, however, steps you can take to achieve better work-life balance—even while working remotely:
Stick to your hours.
Maybe your employer still wants you to keep standard business hours, and sticking to your schedule is easy. Or, maybe you’re tasked with setting your own hours. When you can work from anywhere, at any time (so long as you complete your work), you risk burning out. By nature, this arrangement can result in a lack of work-life balance. This means taking a proactive stance is essential to your jobsatisfaction.
So set a clear schedule. Let your clients and colleagues know when they can reach you. Avoid working more hours than you need to, simply because you can. Make time for personal activities you enjoy.
Work in a designated space.
As appealing as sprawling out on the couch with a laptop and your feet up may sound, this isn’t conducive to a productive day of work. (Who am I kidding? Maybe it is.) Ideally, though, you’ll want to work in a designated space—in a room with a door you can shut—and a comfortable atmosphere. A well-organized desk and a plant or two can make a real difference in inspiring comfort and productivity.
Whether you opt for a home office or a desk in the attic, choose a unique space where you can work efficiently, without distractions. Then, steer clear of that space after work hours to promote balance.
Schedule breaks every couple of hours.
It’s tricky. You want to work productively, and stick to your hours like we mentioned above. But to stay productive, you’ll need to schedule the occasional break. We aren’t robots, and we can’t complete eight straight hours of focus-intensive work without stealing a minute or two to breathe every once in a while. Scheduling breaks to work out, fold laundry, or even pick up that prescription can go a long way.
The solitude of remote work can take a real toll if you aren’t doing things for yourself as well. Don’t skimp on your obligations, but do know when a break might lead to greater work-life balance.
The more decisions we have to make, the more overwhelmed we feel. Yet when working remotely, our days consist of decision after decision: planning what to do when, and how. We have to decide which tasks to prioritize, all while balancing other priorities at home. This is where a strategy like timeblocking may come in. It’s a real gamechanger and consists of breaking work up into scheduled bite-size chunks.
This practice can bring immense stress relief. With a proven time management strategy, you’ll know exactly when to tackle your inbox, make headway on projects, schedule meetings, or take a quick break.
Avoid checking your email first thing in the morning.
Did you know that half of Americans check their email before breakfast? This is far from ideal. In fact, it’s the opposite of conducive to work-life balance. While stealing time first thing to play catchup may sound like an appealing productivity hack, it actually increases anxiety. And when you start your day stressed, anxious, and unhappy, time and again, you’re going to have to pay for that down the road.
So give yourself an hour or so in the morning to gear up for your remote workday before you dive right in. And the same thing applies to checking your email right before bed—don’t do it if you want balance!
Get some fresh air.
Opt outside. Breathe in the cool air. Get your Vitamin D fix however you can to ward off negative feelings! But actually, taking the time to get outdoors each day can make a real difference in your quality of life. Whether you want to venture out to the dog park, sip coffee on the porch (weather permitting), or bundle up and walk the neighborhood, the productivity benefits are massive. Think of it as a mental reset.
So regardless of how you choose to spend time outside, make it a priority. You’ll feel energized as a result, and ready to knock off the remainder of your to-do list in no time—and in a much better mood.
Set clear boundaries at work.
It may sound tough to set boundaries when your boss is texting you around the clock, and you’re struggling to reach inbox-zero no matter the time of day or night. Set them anyway. Talk to your team about when you are available and how you’d like others to communicate with you. If you don’t want your colleagues calling your personal cell with work-related questions, you have every right to tell them not to.
Be polite, but prioritize your mental health first. Do what you can to minimize resentments and prevent burnout. Setting boundaries can be hard, especially in a professional setting, but the practice pays off.
Set clear boundaries at home (but still make time to be together).
Maybe your spouse is working remotely as well. Maybe your kids come home from school while you’re still elbow-deep in projects. This is our new normal, so to speak, and we have to set boundaries with family to stay in good spirits (and productive). Consider telling your loved ones to leave you alone unless there’s an emergency, and let them know you’re looking forward to spending time with them after work.
Boundaries can be especially tough with family, and it’s important to acknowledge that there are times you’ll experience conflict or disruptions that you just can’t escape. Open communication can help.
Do something to unwind at the end of each workday.
No one’s saying you have to go to happy hour. No one is saying you need to spend money each day. What we are saying is that doing something consistent to unwind when you wrap up work can help you achieve better work-life balance. Maybe you like long bike rides, or cooking dinner with your favorite podcast blaring (gently) from your AirPods. Whatever you choose, make this your after-work ritual.
With that, we sign off on our list of work-life balance hacks. Thanks for reading!
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