Work Life Balance in a Remote Work Environment
Some of us are seasoned remote workers and others were thrust into it for obvious reasons. It is important to remember that remote working during a pandemic and remote working prior to the pandemic are two different things. Prior to the pandemic, people had separation from their environment for personal and professional appointments or could go work in a co-working space or coffee shop for the day. For the most part, there was not a spouse, kids, or pets home at the same time, doing their work, schooling, and living. Given that a large majority of the remote work population has now found themselves living, working, and being isolated in the same environment day after day, it can certainly be more difficult to manage and find balance or separation.
Finding that balance and separation between work and personal life at home can be tricky, even for seasoned remote workers. Our team has been remote for 10 years and we each regularly make adjustments to accommodate the balance and shift in priorities between work and life.
Our team member, Shannon Curtis, PHR wrote about this in more detail in her Blog Woes and Wins of a Remote Staff.
Here are some tips to help create that balance in a remote environment for yourself and for your team:
Give yourself permission to:
· Set boundaries with your work and home lives. It is important in general to set boundaries for our own well-being and health, and in the case of remote working, boundaries can be time, physical space, and mental space between work and personal time.
· Not be connected 24/7 – Give yourself permission to not be connected 24/7. We had to say it twice because this is so important. Just because technology gives us the ability to work from anywhere at any time, doesn’t mean we should. This means taking true breaks and stepping away from your computer and your phone. If you absolutely must have your phone with you, I recommend turning off notifications for non-essential work apps or messaging during breaks and non-work hours.
· Use available Paid Time Off (PTO) – give yourself permission to use your paid time off. It is imperative to completely disconnect from work during any paid time off period, whether 1 day or 1 week. Saturdays and Sundays aren’t enough. Even if you don’t go anywhere, use your PTO and use your separation techniques of closing work apps and turning off notifications to disconnect from work. I promise you it will make you feel better and ultimately more productive in the long run. Also, while on PTO, set your boundaries with an out of office notification and notify co-workers ahead of time that you will be away from work.
As a manager or business owner, it is so important to encourage employees to use their PTO but also to ask them what they may need from you to be able to take their PTO. Create an environment in which employees know that they don’t have to worry about what they will return to while they are away.
· Work differently - Give yourself permission to know that you will work differently at home versus in the office, and it can take some getting used to. Sometimes it's around how you communicate with your team because there is more messaging, emails, and calls versus passing the halls, watercooler catch ups and in person meetings. Also, a lot of times, in remote workers, we see the tendency to work through lunch. Be sure to give yourself permission to take a lunch break and separate from your work during your break.
Create a Physical and Mental Separation
· Have a “Fake Commute” – Had any heard this term? In a non-remote working environment, there was the process of getting ready, gearing up for work during the drive to the office, then once in the office, the routine of getting coffee, quick chat with co-workers, etc. Same goes for at the end of the day, with the commute home, maybe even a happy hour with co-workers or errands on the way home. Those routines allowed us to both physically and mentally gear up and down between home and work and create that separation. In a work from home environment, the commute doesn’t necessarily exist to that extent, so it is important to create a mental and physical separation before and after the workday, so that it doesn’t become all consuming. That will look different for each person - you have to find what works for you.
· Close up shop – If you have a home office, shut, or even lock the door when you’re not working and don’t go in there during non-work time. If you are working from a laptop that is moved around the house, get a box or a hideaway case so that you can put the laptop and any other work materials or equipment in the box and put the box away at the end of each workday. The double bonus of “opening and closing shop”, it that it also creates a bit of a “fake commute” to go through the process of pulling out your laptop and putting it away each day.
· Schedule in office time once or twice a week – If the option is available to sign up for in-office time, utilize that option. The different environment can help open your mind, spark new ideas and break up the monotony of being in the same environment for all things life and work.
Prioritize Wellness and Self Care
This is essential in a “normal” situation, but establishing and enforcing boundaries, wellness and self-care are needed more during situations that may cause additional stress, such as these. GIVE YOURSELF PERSMISSION TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
· Employee Assistance Program - As a small business owner, supporting employee wellness and encouraging their self-care is critical to their overall health and productivity. This can be done in a variety of ways, but mainly we see the offering of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as the cornerstone in supporting employee wellness.
· Discuss and encourage wellness, positive inspiration, and other supportive communication – Incorporate this type of conversation in team meetings, one on ones, or via internal messaging tools. Create a wellness channel on Slack or Teams so that others can share their ideas, support, and success stories.
With wellness and self-care, as well as creating your physical and mental separation, it is important to do what works for you and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If your company is interested in learning more about how to support employees in this area or would like more information about the Employee Assistance Program that we offer, reach out to Client Relationship Manager, Robert Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org