Before COVID-19, only about 3.6% of the U.S. workforce regularly worked remotely. Now, as the pandemic continues into the summer months, it’s estimated that about 33% to nearly 50% of Americans are working from home. And new research projects that 25-30% of American workers will continue to work remotely in a post-COVID world. This is great news for those enjoying the flexibility that comes with working from home.
Transitioning to remote work hasn’t been easy for everyone.
A recent survey of 1,200 workers revealed that 27% say they’re working more hours at home than they would be if in an office or physical workspace, and 29% say their daily schedule is unpredictable with others at home as well.
To support those struggling with this new normal, here are 4 easy ways you can maintain work-life balance as a remote worker:
1. Designate a workspace
Create a space that is only for work. This is a simple way to set work boundaries because you can literally create a physical boundary between your work responsibilities and personal life. Setting aside a spare room or even just a corner of a room, can help you associate that area with work time and associate other areas with your personal time. It also lets anyone you live with see that you’re in work mode. If you’re on the computer in your workspace, you’re working and they shouldn’t interrupt you. If you’re on the computer in another location, they know it’s a good time to reach out. Try to avoid your physical workspace during any breaks, so you’re able to mentally unwind effectively.
But depending on your living situation, it may be unrealistic to replicate an office space at home. Instead, you might aim to create a mental workspace. Try listening to only one genre of music when you’re working. Set a work-only screensaver and a non-work screensaver. Turn off any non-work app notifications, or even use Do Not Disturb mode if you’re really in the zone. The whole point is to simulate a different environment that you can essentially turn on and turn off, so you can set a healthy boundary between work and life.
2. Signal the end of your workday with an activity
Pick an activity you enjoy, and plan to do that activity at the end of each workday. It can give you something to look forward to and something worth logging off for. Consider choosing an activity that requires you to step away from a screen, since you’ll likely have already spent most of your day in front of a computer. You’ll likely want to choose something that’s physically or mentally different from what you do all day as well as something that helps you destress.
Your signal could be something physical—like going for a walk, cooking a meal with family, playing a game with the kids, saying a positive phrase to yourself, dancing or singing along to your favorite song, or any form of exercise.
Or your signal could be something more mental or emotional—a few minutes of meditation, a page of reflective journaling, some yoga poses, a series of deep breathing exercises. The choices are endless, and it’s really up to you!
3. Don’t jump right into the workday
Do not start your day with work; start it with something else that you love. You didn’t wake up at the office before, and you shouldn’t be expected to do so now that you’re working remotely. Whether it’s breakfast with family or connecting with a friend, it’s important to start your day without work.
Maybe you read a book with your cup of coffee, or maybe you don’t even start work until you’re done with your first cup of coffee. Maybe you write down three small personal goals you have for the day, so you have something to strive for other than attending all those meetings. You might listen to your favorite podcast or playlist while you complete a few household chores or go for a walk. Try to start your day with something not on your computer, so logging onto your computer becomes your signal for starting work.
4. Schedule your break time
There are so many tools available to help you remember to step away from work occasionally. One way is to simply schedule break time on your calendar as a meeting; add a friend or family member to the invite so they know when you’re free and can help pull you away from work. If you’re a couple with kids around, try to develop your break schedules together. This will either give you more time together as a whole family, or let one of you focus on work while the other spends time with the kids.
Be sure to use technology to make it a real mental break away from work. Write a clever out of office message for your emails, and set it to a timer. Or you can set your chat status as “away,” “BRB,” or any of the other activities that have become commonplace in a COVID-19 world like “walking the dog” or “mental break”. In fact, Slack is releasing a whole new set of work-from-home emojis to more accurately depict life as a remote worker such as “cat on keyboard” or “internet outage”. Be sure to note when you’ll be back online if you can, so your co-workers know when to expect a response.
No matter what approach you take, the most important piece is that you add enough structure to your day so you can find the right work-life balance for you. Make sure you can focus appropriately when it’s time to work, but ensure you can unapologetically unwind when it’s time to focus on your personal life.
If you’re looking for more advice on how to find the right work-life balance for you, book a consultation with one of our online therapists. They’ll help you work on your wellness, from anywhere.