Let’s start off by saying that Remote Working is not the same as working from home during a pandemic. This needs to be clear. Working from home during pandemic is always going to be harder for even the most experienced remote worker. It is more challenging to deal with mentally, physically, emotionally and cannot be considered a truly honest remote working experience.
Remote working can have a lot of benefits (which we at RemoteStar talk about regularly) but it isn’t for everyone. Remote working can allow flexibility, travel and more but we think one of the biggest benefits is balance.
There is a lot of talk about “work-life balance” and I’m not a fan of that term as it implies that work is separate from life which is just not a realistic way of thinking in my opinion. Work is clearly part of most of our lives. It shouldn’t be “work-life balance” but instead just balance.
The question is how do you maintain that balance while you are working remotely?
Here are some tips that we’ve found from our years of experience doing this and which we see as being very effective with our team and with our partners.
You will burn out if you are not able to put boundaries around what is work, what is family, what is social etc.
You should set boundaries just like you would do as if you were in a traditional or even hybrid office setup. When you commute to and from work for the day, taking the physical action of closing a laptop, leaving, etc. you are typically moving from one mode of your life to another. That’s a boundary.
As a remote worker,
- You need to create ways to start and end the workday,
- Have dedicated physical spaces,
- Clear habits or routines and clarity those around you and your workplace what you will and will not do for work, personal and when.
It’s very tempting to answer a call or type out a response at all hours (we have all done it) and some even say you must do this to be asynchronous, but that isn’t sustainable and turns work into all day.
We suggest you do simple things such as
- Shutting your laptop and putting it away,
- Taking the notifications off on your mobile
- Having robust away and out of office indicators and
- Even a signature on your email stating your availability.
You also need to ensure those boundaries are set for things in life outside work, whether it’s a family member who likes to disturb you during your working time “because you are home”, your desire to suddenly do all the chores or that errand that needs doing or catching up on your favourite series.
Remote working allows wonderful flexibility but you need to also find time, structure and focus to work effectively to ensure your boundaries are for every area in your life.
MOVE IT, GROOVE IT
When you are in a traditional office, you will get distracted by others which can give a mental break, you go grab a tea in the kitchen and have a chat, you may walk to get lunch and more.
Remote workers can sometimes (often) get heads down in their work, go back to back on tasks and calls (and feel that it’s ok as you aren’t travelling to meetings) and not even realize when many hours have passed. This creates problems in our physical and mental health.
Part of the boundaries mentioned above has to include setting them for YOU.
You need the physical and mental breaks of getting up from your desk, moving around and changing your focus. That could be
- Going down to your kitchen and make yourself a tea,
- Taking the dog for a quick stroll,
- Having a call while you walk (one of my favourite things to do!),
- Watering the plants in the garden,
- Doing some meditation or reading or whatever suits you for time and energy.
It doesn’t have to be going to the and a hard workout although, remember that you can build in the flexibility to do this when you are a remote worker. Make sure that you give yourself the mental and physical breaks and space that are required to be an effective productive person.
One of the documented downsides of remote working for some is the lack of social time. The rime to just chat and connect.
Often remote workers only speak to others online or during purposeful meetings/calls. It is unsafe for our emotional and mental health to allow the loneliness aspect of being a remote worker to take over.
We have found that there are many ways to have social interactions without having to physically be in an office with your team. Social doesn’t even have to mean being with your co-workers,
I for one, make sure that I visit the coffee truck in the park on a regular basis to have a nice chat with the gentleman who operates it. I also have the opportunity as a remote worker to walk my dog more regularly and meet up with other pet “parents” and others take classes in their community or even online but with different people. Within your own team, make sure there is time for chatter,
- maybe some online games/quizzes and when possible,
- arrange in-person meetups.
Remote doesn’t mean never meeting your team! Team retreats can be hugely powerful if done correctly and when all want to be there. Find your social interaction time, build it in and make sure that part of you is taken care of.
REFLECTION & ASSESSMENT
The final tip (for now) to maintain balance when remote working is to ensure that you are taking a strong measure of how it's’ going.
Check-in with yourself regularly, with your team and your boss. Take stock of how your “structure” is serving you. We recommend checking and evaluating at the end of each week to start.
- Check your calendar or our notes or whichever to see how you spent your time. Was it productive?
- Was it lacking interaction?
- How many times did your boundaries get crossed? Were you active? How do you feel?
- If you check-in like this, reflecting on the worries, the irritations, the moments of joy and happiness, you will find yourself adjusting your balance over time and making remote working work for you.
We know that the future of work will include a lot more remote working and our team and clients obviously embrace this but we also know it is not easy at times and needs support.
If you would love to ever chat with any of our team about what works for them, let us know. There are also amazing resources out there doing fantastic work in this area, resources who we turn to often ourselves. Keep an eye on this space for some of these experts!