Employees associate working remotely with a wide variety of benefits — and for good reason. In a recent study, Coworker found that one of the top advantages cited by remote workers was having less stress overall. This is because working remotely means no daily commute to the office, giving you more time and energy to be productive.
However, working remotely can also be a curse if you’re not careful. Work-life balance is important, and that can easily be disrupted if you’re not following a standard schedule.
And then there are those people who make working remotely more difficult, whether it’s bosses who expect you to be on call 24 hours a day, or family members who can’t seem to respect your work time. This can mean you end up working more hours than ever, just to get through your usual tasks.
So how do you maintain that balance? By setting and maintaining healthy boundaries for yourself. In this article, we’ll look at several ways you can do this.
1 – Find a suitable workspace
Creating a dedicated workspace in your home may seem time-consuming, but you’ll see the benefits in the long run. When you create that workspace, you’re communicating a boundary for everyone in your household. It says: “This is my space, so don’t disturb me when I’m here.” The boundary here is psychological as well as physical.
If you have a dedicated work space, you can expect your partner to respect your privacy when you’re in that space. This can be tough to do at home if you have limited space, however, which is where coworking spaces come into play.
A suitable coworking space is more than just a quiet place to work. As a professional, a coworking space provides you with the opportunity to engage with a community of like-minded people who often work in similar niches. This creates opportunities for strategic partnerships, a chance to find clients, and of course, opportunities for socializing.
2 – Have your own work ritual
Rituals and routines are powerful, and creating them can help you to maintain work-life boundaries wherever you’re working. If you wake up at the same time each morning, take a shower, eat breakfast, then go to your workspace and start working. The people you live with will get used to this routine and respect your working hours.
The benefits of creating a daily ritual when working remotely also extend beyond establishing boundaries for other people to respect. It also helps train your brain to expect that work will start at a particular time, allowing you to shun distractions and be more productive.
3 – Learn to Say “No”
Sometimes, it can feel impossible to maintain a work-life balance because there is simply too much work to be done. This is where learning to say “no” is your most important skill.
If your coworker keeps asking you to turn work around at unreasonably short notice, say no. Push back, politely but firmly. Say “My schedule won’t allow me to do this tomorrow, but I can get it to you by Friday?”
If your boss is regularly pushing you to work extra hours, such as evenings or weekends, you can refuse to do so. Stepping up to help out once in a while, in a crisis, is a mark of a dedicated employee. But regularly doing so indicates that there’s something wrong with your workplace culture.
Remember: if you say yes to everything, people are going to take advantage of that. Eventually, saying yes when you really should say no leads to resentment and burnout.
It’s a vicious cycle.
It’s not just your boss or coworkers who might have unreasonable expectations — your family or the people you share your space with might also have unreasonable expectations about your availability. Your partner might ask you to step away from work when you’re up against a big deadline. When that happens, you know what to do. Be kind, but be firm and say no.
4 – Set working hours
One of the most powerful ways to maintain work-life balance is by setting working hours for yourself — and sticking to them.
Having a schedule keeps you from getting lost in work and putting in excessive hours, and also helps your family to respect your work time. Inform your family and strike a deal with them – if they let you work without interruption during these hours, they can have your undivided attention in the evening.
You can use a timesheet to keep track of your hours and productivity. Whatever it is you’re working on, once your agreed finishing time comes around, stop.
5 – Take a break
So you’ve set your working hours. Did you make sure you included time for breaks? It’s not healthy to sit in a desk chair or stare at a screen for eight hours a day. Make sure you take a proper lunch break and at least a couple of shorter breaks every day.
Set a lunch break and add it to your timesheet or calendar for each day. An hour for lunch is ideal. Get away from your desk to eat, recharge, and perhaps go for a short walk or spend some time in your garden.
6 – Talk to bosses & coworkers
There are many overly dedicated — some might say “workaholic” — people in the world. These are the people who will reply instantly to an email received at 11 p.m. and bombard you with messages if you don’t respond to their non-urgent call outside of working hours.
If your boss or one of your coworkers is amongst these people, it’s best to have an honest conversation. Be polite but firm and ask that they only contact you outside of your scheduled hours if it is a genuine emergency.
If your manager is the problem person and talking to them directly doesn’t help, you can ask one of their superiors to help. Everyone needs downtime, even when working remotely.
7 – Take your days off seriously
Your days off are there to help you recharge. They are absolutely crucial to that work-life balance. If you start working on your days off, you are disrupting that balance.
Take your days off seriously. You should make time for yourself and for the things that nourish and replenish you. Make time for your favorite hobby, read a book, call a friend, or just catch up on your sleep. Do whatever makes you happy that isn’t work.
Working remotely has its benefits, but if you’re not careful it can end up disrupting your work-life balance. If you want to lead a healthy and happy life, you must be mindful to not allow this to happen.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed when it seems like everyone wants something from you. Prioritizing yourself and your needs means that you can keep showing up for all your responsibilities, both at work and at home.
Remember the tips in this article and put them into practice. If doing it all at once feels like too much, try doing just one thing this week and see how it feels. If you’re struggling to remember your boundaries, remember this: You’re working to earn a living. And a living is about more than just money.