Remote work has a ton of perks, such as easing into your day, squeezing in a little more time throughout the day with family (or pets), and you always have your favorite coffee nearby. However, those perks come with a major tradeoff: the pressure to feel like you’re always on.
When you work remotely, especially from home, there is a general assumption that you’re always just a step away from your computer or mobile device. Sure, you can do “one more email” when it’s time to end your day. But, the next thing you know, thirty seconds has turned into thirty minutes, and you’re still reluctantly working.
This can be a real problem, and I don’t mean just an inconvenience. It can lead to burnout, high blood pressure, fatigue, and anxiety. You’re not going to be able to sustain this expectation of availability, and your performance can degrade in the process of trying to keep up.
What good is “being on” all of the time, if it only means you won’t be valuable long term?
It’s easy to understand why you may feel this pressure, however, there comes a time when you must realize it is in both your – and the company’s – best interest for you to set up boundaries.
Here are 5 Ways to Tend to your Own Needs in Remote Work/Life Balance:
- Take short Breaks throughout the day. One of the easiest things you can do is to take multiple short breaks throughout the day, to make sure you’re taking care of things. Walking to your kitchen for water, or taking ten minutes to stare out the window (or something that isn’t a screen) are small acts with big impacts on your general health. Moving around throughout the day gets your joints moving, and blood flowing, and can help you work on corrective posture if you’ve been slumped in your office chair all day. Aim for 5 minutes per hour, but understand it may take you a while to develop a new habit.
- Make Sure you’re Unavailable. No, that’s not a typo – you read it correctly. Make sure there are times of the day that you are unavailable, and make sure your team knows as well. You can leave a gentle reminder by blocking off your calendar, or communicating through a group chat to let them know you’re not able to assist them until the next morning. A simple, “goodbye, see you tomorrow”, is quick and efficient. The point is, you’re not a machine, and you have to do what is best for yourself. If you worry about upsetting others, think about how many times you’ve sent an email late in the day and not heard back. It’s acceptable and expected behavior, so take a deep breath, and sign off for the day.
- Get out and about for Exercise. Your physical and mental health are extremely important, and unfortunately, when working remotely, they can be really difficult to address. If you work from home, the chances are, you’re not getting more than 1500 steps per day, and that is not good at all. While common recommendations are for 10,000 steps per day, it’s understandable that is not always feasible. However, going from your bed, to your office chair, to your couch, and back to bed should not be the only walking you get in throughout the day. Schedule time to get out for exercise, even if it’s just a few laps up and down your apartment stairs, or a few laps around the driveway. Your joints and mind will thank you for it.
- Hold yourself (and others) accountable. Unfortunately, none of the advice I’m sharing works if you don’t hold yourself accountable. It’s very easy to block off time on your calendar, and swear that tomorrow is the day you start better habits. However, you actually have to do it. Start small – write down three things you can do to take better care of yourself and your needs for the day, and check them off as you do it. At the end of the day (or early tomorrow), congratulate yourself on making that a focal point. It’s also crucial that you hold others accountable as well, especially if they provide pressure. Kindly remind them that you are unavailable (whether it’s for a lunch break, or the end of your day), but that you will take a look at their issue or email as soon as possible, and let them know when they can expect to hear from you. Usually people are fine as long as they know they aren’t ignored, so let them feel heard, then get back to yourself.
- Work a flexible schedule. Working during hours that best suit your ability to take care of yourself can go a long way in self care. If you are more productive before 10:00 a.m. and love getting up early, knock out a few things before you get distracted, and schedule breaks later in the day, or even work it out with your boss to shut down your computer sooner in the afternoon. If you know that 3:00 p.m is the best time for you to get a workout in, then schedule that time for you, and make sure it’s documented on your calendar so there are no conflicts. Be honest with yourself about what you really need and tap into when you’re at your best.
Ultimately, it comes down to making sure you set up boundaries, and hold people to them, even yourself. You deserve time to yourself, to spend how you like, and you don’t have to justify it to anyone.
Remember, you only have one body, one family, and one mind — take steps to appreciate them now, and stay balanced!