Maintaining a healthy work-life balance in a remote work setting

Deborah Saunders

remote work setting

In today’s fast-paced digital age, remote work has become a prominent aspect of our professional lives. The convenience, flexibility, and efficiency of working from home or any location of your choice are undeniable. From time spared on travelling to work to attending appointments that are impossible to make when stuck in the office, working remotely is a positive change many have benefited from. However, like all things, there are cons against the pros. The ease of remote work can sometimes blur the lines between your professional and personal life, making it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This blurring of boundaries can result in a constant state of being “on-call,” where you may feel compelled to respond to work-related emails or messages even during your personal time, leading to increased stress, decreased relaxation, and ultimately making remote work counterproductive. The good news is that you can make habitual changes to your routine to avoid overworking and potentially burning out. In this blog, we will explore key strategies to help you sustain equilibrium and well-being while working remotely.

Establish Clear Boundaries

One of the most critical elements of maintaining a healthy work-life balance while working remotely is setting clear boundaries. Just as you would have distinct working hours in a traditional office setting, you need to establish a clear schedule for your remote work. Try and follow your typical work routine such as designating specific start and end times and taking regular breaks by imagining yourself in the office. For example, if you’re usually out the door by 5 pm, make a habit of logging off at the same time when working remotely. Communicate these hours to your colleagues and stick to them as closely as possible. This may mean turning off work-related notifications and avoiding checking your work email or messaging apps outside of working hours. Similarly, if possible, set expectations to household members to ensure you can focus and complete tasks. Communicating your work hours and the importance of uninterrupted time can help minimise distractions and aid productivity. By setting specific working hours you create a mental barrier that separates your work from personal life.

Create a Productive Workspace

Your work environment plays a significant role in your productivity and overall well-being. A well-organised and comfortable workspace at home with ergonomic considerations, can enhance your efficiency and reduce the stress associated with remote work. A useful tip is to personalise your workspace with elements that inspire and motivate you. Keep it organised, free from distractions, and equipped with all the resources needed to perform your tasks. It’s important that this space is dedicated to working and not just a spot where you are tempted to work in the background. Not having a dedicated workspace can lead to the blurring of boundaries between your professional and personal life, reducing work output and making it more challenging to disconnect from work later.

Prioritise Time Management

A common challenge employees face is not knowing how to manage their time and prioritise tasks when withdrawn from their typical work environment. While similar to what was discussed in the beginning, this specifically refers to the disparity between how you plan your day and set goals at home compared to work. Effective time management is crucial to ensure that you stay on top of your to-do list. Develop a routine or schedule that allocates time to complete specific tasks, meet virtually with team members, and of course, incorporate breaks. You can even revert to simple tools like calendars and to-do lists to help you stay on track and set goals to ensure items are completed. To avoid venturing off and making drastic commitments unrelated to work, a helpful tip is to utilise time management techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique, which involves short bursts of focused work followed by short breaks. This approach not only improves your productivity but also minimises the risk of burnout, as it encourages regular intervals of rest and reflection, allowing you to maintain a sustainable and balanced work routine. As working remotely becomes the norm, there is no doubt that you will find a structure and process that works best for you.

Practice Self-Care

Blurring the lines between work and personal life in a remote setting can sometimes lead to overwork and burnout. That’s why prioritising self-care is essential for maintaining balance. Remember that you work to live, not live to work, and you shouldn’t let work overshadow the personal time you need to refresh. Make time for physical exercise, mindfulness practices, and hobbies you enjoy. These are essential for maintaining a well-rounded work-life balance as regular exercise can boost energy levels, mindfulness practices can help reduce stress, and engaging in hobbies provides a sense of fulfillment outside of work. Similarly, focusing on other aspects of your health such as getting sufficient sleep, eating nutritious meals, and taking regular breaks during the workday can significantly contribute to your overall well-being and even better, reduces the chances of you falling ill. Prioritising self-care ensures you have the physical and mental resilience to excel in your professional life and savour the moments in your personal life, thus nurturing a more harmonious work-life balance.

Foster Social Connections

When working remotely it is easy to self-isolate. To counteract this, actively maintain social connections. Schedule virtual coffee breaks with colleagues, attend online team meetings, or participate in webinars. These small but essential efforts help recreate the camaraderie and shared purpose of an office environment while leveraging digital tools like messaging platforms and video conferencing to stay connected and mitigate isolation. This not only boosts your sense of belonging and engagement but also fosters healthy relationships with colleagues. Additionally, make an effort to connect with friends and family outside of work hours. Cultivating these personal relationships provides emotional support, helps you unwind, and reinforces the importance of maintaining a well-rounded life that extends beyond your professional commitments. Social interactions are crucial for your emotional health and maintaining a sense of normalcy, so make sure you stay connected.

Balancing work and personal life while working remotely is both challenging and rewarding. By setting a clear work schedule with boundaries in a productive space, as well as taking the time to look after yourself and connect with others, you can nurture a healthy work-life balance outside the traditional structures of an office. Remote work offers tremendous flexibility and freedom, and with the right approach, you can enhance productivity while maintaining your overall well-being. Remember, balance is not a one-time achievement but an ongoing practice, and it’s worth the effort to attain it.

Deborah Saunders is the Relationship and Services Manager for the Careers, Leadership Development & Consulting Services division of OnTalent. She has over 20 years’ experience in customer relations and has managed and co-ordinated workflow and projects within the career and leadership development sector across Australia over a ten-year period.

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