If you’re like most folks these days, you’re having trouble with work/life balance. Remote work may have seemed dreamy back when you were stuck commuting to an office, but now you realize that working remotely combines your work life with your home life to such an extent that it’s difficult to end the day feeling like either has benefited.
I’ve been working remotely my entire career and there are some tricks I’ve developed along the way that I have come to view as essential in achieving balance:
1. Have a separate home office
Sure, you can throw a desk in the corner of a room and call it a working space. But if you also sleep or relax in that room “off-hours”, it’s difficult to mentally separate work from life. Additionally, it may be difficult for other people you live with to understand the boundaries as well. It’s easy to justify bothering you when it’s unclear what mental mode you’re in.
I know this isn’t an easy one. Not everybody does or can have a dedicated home office. But do your best. Consider creative alternatives like room dividers, coworking areas, etc.
2. Get away from your computer
You need to take breaks. When you’re in an office, this is easy. You usually have to go away/out for lunch. A coworker may grab you and ask if you’re interested in taking a walk. But when you’re home, the impetus is usually on you.
For me personally, this means grabbing lunch out at least a couple days a week. I also have a dog, so making it a ritual to take a long walk with him mid-afternoon is helpful. Your mileage may vary, but whatever it takes, you’ve got to find a way to take physical and mental breaks.
3. Improve your meetings
There’s no better way to guarantee days that are exhausting and likely to have you playing catch-up at night than filling your calendar with long meetings with random 15-30 minute intermissions. Get your team on that same page and make it so that meetings are short, to the point, and grouped together. This ensures you’re able to collaborate and get your individual work done - efficiently.
4. Get the ebb and flow right
Yes, we live in an always-on world and there’s probably a part of you or your job that expects you to be highly available. That’s not a bad thing. It’s the tradeoff that comes with more trust from your employer to get your job done regardless of location or schedule.
Being more available doesn’t need to mean working more. It just means partitioning the hours in your day such that both your life and your work are operating constantly and in harmony. This means getting realistic about the fact that you might need to work a little bit at night, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pause for a nice work-free dinner. Simultaneously, you might run out mid-day to pick up your kids, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work for another couple hours between doing that and worrying about dinner.
Just make sure that whatever you’re doing, you’re focusing on that thing - even if it’s just for an hour at a time. Your family and friends deserve your attention. Your work deserves your attention. You deserve some downtime to yourself! But none of that is really happening if your mind is on all of it at once.
What helps you achieve balance in this new always-on, primarily-remote world?