There are so many benefits to remote work for both employers and employees; you have a reduced commute time, less need for office space, greater flexibility… It all sounds ideal.
Unfortunately, remote work can also make it harder to strike the right balance between your work life and your personal life. Living and working in the same space makes it more difficult to switch off and detach from your work responsibilities. It’s tempting to work more than your contracted hours and check your email every five minutes. Some employers have even come to expect after-hours communication from their staff, meaning it’s becoming harder and harder to find a good work-life balance as a remote worker.
When you work remotely, it’s crucial to take time for yourself and give the right amount of weight to both your work priorities and your personal priorities.Failing to find this balance can lead to increased fatigue, stress and burnout– all of which can lead to long-term health problems and can actually make you less productive in the long run.
If you’re a remote worker and are struggling to find time for yourself, here are nine tips to help you strike the right work-life balance.
If you are a full-time or part-time employee on a company’s payroll, you are contracted (and paid) to work a certain number of hours each week. Most of the time, there is simply no need to work beyond those set hours.
Sometimes, you may feel you have to work longer – maybe there’s a big project deadline looming. In these instances, you’ll be expected to work longer, and you’ll probably want to if it means getting the job done well. It’s fine to work longer hours if you are happy to do so, but you should consider talking to your boss or HR department about the possibility of receiving days in lieu or, at the very least, getting paid for your overtime.
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should be expected to work for longer hours than you are paid for. Switch off at the end of the day and try not to feel guilty about it.
It can be more difficult for freelancers to stick to a specific set of hours, because they don’t usually work on a contracted schedule; they just work to deadlines. But it’s not impossible. Here are some simple ways that remote freelancers can stick to a work schedule and avoid working late into the night:
A very easy way to switch off at the end of a workday is to deny yourself any access to your work email. Uninstall the app or deactivate the account from your phone so that you aren’t tempted to check it at every hour of the day. In the vast majority of jobs, there is no need to be accessible 24-7.
Be honest with yourself: how much work are you really going to get done on a Friday evening? None! But if somebody sends you an email at 6.45 on aFriday night and you receive a notification, you’ll be tempted to check it and respond. Chances are that it’s not urgent for first thing on Monday morning, so why bother checking your email?
Remove your work email from your phone entirely or, at the very least, disable the notifications. This should help you detach from work at the end of the day and give your full attention to your personal life.
Another tip for finding a better work-life balance is to find yourself a specific place to work – a place that isn’t your bedroom or your sofa.
Many remote workers are tempted to work from bed, but doing so is a recipe for disaster. Not only is this terrible for your spine, but it will also encourage you to be unproductive. On top of that, you’ll be merging the worlds of home and work, and of sleep and focus. This will make it more difficult for you to switch off at the end of the workday and harder to fall asleep.
If possible, set up a dedicated home office space to work from. A desk, a comfortable chair (think lumbar support!) and whatever else you need – a printer, a monitor, a laptop stand, a keyboard. Use only this space for your work and don’t be tempted to work from the sofa, the kitchen table or your bed.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have space for a dedicated home office, you could always work from a coworking space. Hiring a desk in a coworking space will help you be more productive during the day and will make it easier to switch off ‘work mode’ when you’re clocking off.
Prioritising your work tasks is another great way to strike a better work-life balance, because you’ll log off from work in the knowledge that all your important work tasks have been completed. You can then go about your evening or weekend without any underlying stress and without thoughts of work eating up your free time.
When you switch on for work in the morning, set yourself a to-do list for the day based on your top priorities and most urgent deadlines. Organise your tasks into ‘must-dos’, ‘should-dos’ and ‘might-dos’, and start your day by tackling all the jobs you absolutely have to get done. Extra tasks might come up as the day goes on, but this easy method will help you prioritise them.
Stick to your list and work through your priorities, then sign out, switch off and start enjoying yourself.
Research suggests that up to 82% of workers don’t make full use of their lunch break. It’s very common for people to feel a sense of guilt about using their whole lunch hour, but this is time you are not contracted to work, so you shouldn’t feel bad for taking time out for yourself.
Taking a break in the middle of the day is important for productivity.Stepping away from your work can give your brain a chance to reset, and eating a proper, healthy meal (not a sausage roll and a bag of crisps at your desk!)gives your body the nutrients it needs to power through the rest of the day.
Beyond that, a lunch break is an ideal time to do something for yourself. Whether you work from home or in a coworking space, step away from your desk for your entire lunch break and use the time to do something you enjoy. Cook yourself a good meal, go for a walk or to an exercise class, meetup with a friend or neighbour for a chat, or just relax and read a book.
Bonus tip: Block out your lunch break as ‘busy’ in your calendar to make sure you don’t get booked into video conferences or meetings.
If you have a manager or co-worker who likes to book catch-ups or meetings in for inconvenient times (at the very beginning or end of the day, or around lunch), you might find your work time creeping into your personal time.
An easy way to sidestep this is to add any personal engagements – dates, meet-ups with friends, trips to the cinema or pretty much anything else you might be doing – to your work diary. You can simply mark the time as ‘busy’,and this should reduce the risk of colleagues adding virtual meetings or phone calls to your spare time.
This also means that you’re more likely to start treating your personal commitments as just as important as your work commitments. This is a great way to build the habit of taking time for yourself and blocking out time to do the things you enjoy.
Many people have specific career goals that they want to achieve, but it’s so important to also think about any personal goals you might have.
This doesn’t necessarily mean things like getting married and having kids (but it can if that’s what you’re dreaming of). Think more along the lines of things you want to achieve during the course of your life – countries you want to visit, a fitness challenge you want to complete, things you want to tick off your bucket list.
Setting yourself personal goals and thinking about them regularly will help you make your personal life, your real life, more of a priority. Once you’ve got some goals and targets in mind, carve out time in your day-to-day life to work towards them. This is an effective way of ensuring that you’re making time for the things you’re passionate about.
It’s not uncommon for people to use work as a bit of a crutch when they don’t have much else going on.
Maybe your love life is stagnant right now, or maybe your friends and family are busy with other commitments and you haven’t been able to see them as often as you’d like. If you’re in a situation like this, it’s tempting to fill your extra hours with work even if it’s not really necessary for you to do so.
Instead of relying solely on work, consider trying out a new hobby and filling your spare time with something you enjoy. Why not sign up for a class to learn something new? You could take language lessons, join an arts and crafts class or teach yourself a new hobby. Learn to cook a show stopping meal, or join a local book club.
Finding a new hobby is an easy way to meet new people if your social life is in a bit of a rut, and once you’ve found something you enjoy, you’ll be keen to clock off work promptly so you can spend your free time on yourself.
One of the best things about remote working is the flexibility to work…well, anywhere. You aren’t chained to a desk, so you can really hit the road and work from any place that suits you.
With that in mind, why not strike a better work-life balance by combining your day job with a trip abroad? Today’s advanced tech and numerous remote working tools mean that you can easily work your usual hours and meet all your deadlines from another country, with the added bonus that you’ll be surrounded by incentives to get out of your work bubble at the end of the workday.
Plan a trip to a city you’ve always wanted to visit and spend time there without having to use up any of your annual leave. It’s easier than ever to work remotely from abroad, and it’s a fantastic option if you’re looking to explore the world and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Go and make some memories!
It doesn’t matter whether you love, like or loathe your job; it’s always important to remember that life isn’t only about work. Taking time for yourself, seeing friends and family, and exploring the world around you will help you find the right work-life balance and feel more fulfilled in your daily life.
With evidence mounting that remote working can actually improve productivity, and with businesses realising that they no longer need to hold on to expensive city centre real estate office space, it looks like the remote working revolution is here to stay.
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