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11 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance While Working Remotely

Over the past couple of years, work-from-home remote jobs have risen substantially.

Whether it was being sent home from the office due to pandemic concerns or changing careers and seeking a remote position, the percentage of people working from home has risen over 11% since 2020. Furthermore, a study by Ladders projects that almost 25% of professional jobs will be fully remote by the end of 2023!

But how do you find a good work-life balance when you do your job from home? 

Many challenges arise when your office can be the couch in your living room. In many studies conducted about the increasing number of remote work positions, one of the most frequently mentioned issues cited was concerns over time management. 

If you’re a work-from-home professional and you’re looking for the best ways to find balance, set boundaries, and achieve greatness in your career, look no further. This article is for you! 

How Working From Home Has Affected Productivity

When working in a traditional setting, days have a flow that is easy to build a routine around: you know when the day begins, when lunchtime will be, and when it’s time to head home for the day. 

But with the flexibility of working from home, you’re responsible for setting and keeping your own routine. You don’t see co-workers heading out for lunch or winding down for the day. Instead, you can find yourself focused on a task, and before you know it, you glance at a clock and see that it’s 2 PM!

A study conducted by Chicago Booth from March 2020 through March 2021 found that working from home led to an over 5% increase in productivity compared to a traditional work setting. Another study by Owl Labs reported that remote workers tended to work over 40 hours a week 43% more often when compared to those in non-remote settings. 

These statistics suggest that remote work leads to better productivity, but they also show that working from home can cause work-life balance to suffer. The lines blur when you can be writing a work report on your computer one minute, then loading the dishwasher the next. 

With that in mind, here are 11 ways to set boundaries at your work-from-home job and keep your work-life balance thriving:

#1: Determine What Type of Worker You Are

Everyone is different, which means everyone has different expectations of work-life balance, and determining how that balance looks greatly depends on what type of worker you are.

In her study Managing Work Life in the Digital Age, Ellen Ernst Kossek, a professor at Purdue University,  proposes that there a four distinct ways workers handle their work-life balance:

  • Separators: They establish clear work-life boundaries, focusing on each with almost no crossing over between the two, making them more inflexible.
  • Integrators: They have a heavy blending of work-life, which can lead to them struggling with prioritizing effectively.
  • Cyclers: They alternate between being focused on work or life for extended periods while separating entirely from the other, making them susceptible to burnout.
  • Role Firsters: They shift between work and life roles depending on which needs to be prioritized at the time, allowing for some crossover between them. They have the greatest sense of work-life balance.

If you’ve determined that you are a Separator, Integrator, or Cycler, you can begin building habits to help you become a more, balanced Role Firster!

#2: Establish a Routine

As mentioned earlier, one of the main concerns cited by remote workers was time management. 

When you don’t have to set your alarm for a certain time to make sure you can get up and dress, and your commute becomes a shuffle to your workstation, wherever you have it set up at home, it can be hard to get your workday started. It can also be easy to get distracted when you notice something like the carpet needing to be vacuumed. The next thing you know, you’re doing that instead.

While you don’t necessarily have to have a rigid schedule, you do need to establish a routine when working from home.

Without a framework for your day, work can bleed into downtime and vice-versa. If you don’t currently have mandated work hours, set a block of time that you dedicate to focusing on work activities and hold to it. This can help prevent you from skipping lunch or working unnecessarily long hours. Many schedule templates are available online, and Google Calendar is a great way to keep your hours and tasks organized. 

Another step in building your routine is how you start your workday. 

Even if your “office” could be your bed (It’s possible, but we don’t recommend it), don’t fall into the trap of grabbing your laptop or phone and getting straight to work! While you might not have to travel to your job, you should still use some of that saved time to wake up and prepare yourself for work properly. 

Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and have a dedicated “work cup” to drink it from. Little rituals like that can help you stay in “work mode” more effectively. If you were working in a traditional office setting, you would likely not have many coffee cup options. Plus, if you have a dedicated cup for work-from-home, you won’t be tempted to do the dishes because you have a bunch of dirty cups in the sink!

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#3: Get Dressed Before You Start Your Workday

Taking some time to prepare yourself before beginning work is vital. Part of that preparation should be to dress in a fresh outfit. We might overlook changing our clothes when working from home, but you wouldn’t head into the office in your pajamas, so why should you do it when working remotely?

According to research, putting some new clothes on from what you slept in can have a big impact on your productivity. The effects our clothing can have on our behavior is known as “Enclothed Cognition,” and it influences our attitude, confidence, and how we interact with others. 

Even though it’s not necessary to put on a suit and tie to type away at your home computer, you do want to have comfortable but practical work clothes. Dedicated work attire can help you mentally get into “work mode” and make sure you’re prepared for an unexpected Zoom meeting if one pops up. An added benefit of dressing for work is that anyone you live with will view your working from home more seriously.

#4: Have a Dedicated Workspace

Yes, it is very tempting to lay in bed with the laptop and complete tasks, but that should only be an occasional thing, at most. It can’t be stressed enough: you must try to keep work and home defined. To that end, have a set workspace in your home.

Ideally, this would be a room that you can make your office, but if that’s not possible, there are still options. Even having a dedicated area in the corner of a room or a small workstation you can roll in front of the couch works. 

The only goal is to ensure that wherever it is, your mind thinks, Time to work, when you’re at it. Having this dedicated workspace also helps limit distractions that could draw your focus away from making progress on a job.

#5: Avoid Remote Work Burnout

Even though we’ve talked about how people working from home report being happier and their productivity is greater, they also experience greater burnout. In a survey by TINYpulse, a staggering 85.65% of the remote workers they polled reported feeling some level of job burnout. This amount represents a 24% higher rate than that experienced by in-person workers!

With the blurring of work and personal time that comes with working from home, it’s easy to see how burnout can set in. Recognizing signs of burnout allows us to take steps to avoid it. If you find that you’re working late into the evening, getting sick more often, or begin feeling disengaged from your work and personal relationships, you’re more than likely burning out. 

But you can recover from that feeling by setting healthy boundaries. 

#6: Set Healthy Work Boundaries

It can be a struggle to set boundaries to keep work separate from personal time when working from home. Once again, when you leave the office for the day, you feel like you’re done with work, and your time begins. But when working remotely, you can find yourself on a different schedule than your co-workers and even your boss.

When you think of a boundary, you could mistake it for a barrier in your mind. Barriers are walls, leaving no room for communication or negotiation. But boundaries are like a property line: you don’t have anything preventing you from crossing over it every so often, yet it’s an accepted border.

The process of setting boundaries begins by establishing what healthy boundaries are. While it’s possible to accommodate someone else’s desires, you shouldn’t be accommodating them 100% of the time. Having healthy boundaries means taking responsibility for what you do and how you act but not taking responsibility for the behavior of others. Simply put, it’s owning what you control.

Setting boundaries gives you greater emotional stability and reduces anxiety. Think about how you work the best. What are your responsibilities? What are your needs? What challenges do you face? What time are you “at work”? 

Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, ask your partners both professional and personal, to do the same. Then, after finding out what they need to succeed, you can communicate your boundaries and agree to honor what works best for both parties.

#7: Maintain Your Boundaries

It’s one thing to set boundaries and make others aware of them, but ensuring you hold to them can be challenging. One reason is that you can feel like you’re letting a co-worker or your boss down and not being a team player by holding to them.

On the other hand, it’s just as easy to feel obligated to do things around the house at the expense of your work. If your partner or roommates don’t work from home, they might think you should be doing more around the house since you’re home while they’re away. Even if they don’t think this, the possibility of it can trigger a sense of guilt for us.

Being flexible and making occasional exceptions is never a bad thing, but doing it too often can quickly compromise your work-life balance. You can find yourself in an unhealthy cycle where someone infringes on your boundaries, you then sacrifice your needs to accommodate them, and their expectations of you increase. 

Without sticking to your set boundaries, you might find work taking priority and your personal time dwindling, or vice-versa.

#8: Learn How to Say “No”

One of the biggest hurdles we face in setting and keeping our healthy boundaries is when we need to say one little word: No. None of us want to feel as though we’re letting someone down, but the fact is, it’s very easy to overextend ourselves and fall into an unhealthy cycle by being afraid to say “no.”

Many people working from home can feel like they need to overcompensate for not being directly supervised in person. Whether it be constantly checking email, texts, or chat channels like Slack, remote workers fall into a mindset of needing to prove that they’re not just binging Netflix on the couch and not being productive.

It’s difficult enough to say “no” to a coworker, but having to maintain your boundaries with your boss can be even more stressful. A study by Korn Ferry found that 69% of the remote workers they polled said their bosses expected them to respond to calls or emails outside of dedicated work hours. Needless to say, being in this type of situation will lead to problems in keeping a healthy work-life balance.

So, how do we effectively set boundaries with a supervisor? 

Before even having a conversation with them, take some time to rank your job responsibilities and projects by importance. Then, when discussing your boundaries with the boss, you can show them that you’ve put thought into prioritizing. Odds are, they’re focused on productivity, so offering solutions toward achieving the greatest results will make them more receptive to your needs.

#9: Take a Stroll During Your Workday

When working in an in-person setting, most of us make sure to take breaks throughout the day to stay fresh. You grab a cup of coffee or water and take the time to drink it or take it back to your desk. You take 30 minutes to an hour to go out for lunch or eat in the break room. The bottom line is we build rest periods into our day.

But when working from home, we don’t necessarily do the same. We feel like we do, though. We get up from our work area and start a load of laundry or make a snack and then find ourselves washing some dishes. Even switching from the task we’re working on to taking a moment to catch up on emails can seem like a break, but it’s not.

Taking some time to declutter our mental space can give us the actual break we need. 

If you step away from your work area, leave your phone behind so you’re not tempted to check texts or emails. Constantly using tech has been viewed as a big factor in blurring the lines of work-life balance. You can also step outside for a few minutes to breathe some fresh air and get a bit of sun, or eat your lunch anywhere but your workspace.

#10: Press Pause on Your Work

In order to keep a healthy work-life balance, we need to not only take breaks but ensure that we step away completely sometimes. If making sure we eat our lunch when working from home can be a concern, taking regular days off can become a major issue.

When setting up your schedule, account for proper days off and unplug completely. Set Out of Office notifications on your work channels and let everyone know when you’ll be available again. Furthermore, communicate the status of any projects you might be working on before stepping away. Doing this can help reduce the need for others to reach out to you for information while you’re away.

The most important thing to do when you take a day off is to get out of the house! When you work from home, your living space is your workspace. Just like you wouldn’t choose to spend your day off at the office if working in-person, staying in the house on your day off can lead to feeling burnout, too.

Just like you wouldn’t choose to spend your day off at the office if working in-person, staying in the house on your day off can lead to feeling burnout, too.

#11: Have a Support Structure

Even if you have others in your home working remotely, too, you can begin to feel isolated. These feelings can be a factor that lead to burnout as well, so having some support can go a long way toward fighting back.

Set up work days with others where you share workspaces, whether at home or a coffee shop. This can not only reduce isolation, but it can also spur productivity. Having someone to bounce ideas off of or give feedback on your work can energize you.

The same goes for our friends and family on the life side of the equation. Spending an evening out with your partner or best friend having a meal or a drink helps recharge our batteries for work. 

Strive to be a Role Firster to Achieve Work-From-Home Greatness

Balancing anything can be a delicate process, but balancing the demands of work and life might be the toughest one of all. 

By establishing a routine, having healthy boundaries, and ensuring you make time for your needs, you can have a healthy balance. Accepting your limitations and learning to say no helps avoid burnout.

By taking these steps, you can even the scales, avoid burnout, and find greatness!

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