Balance: That elusive concept that we are all told we need to have a happy and successful life, but we aren't quite sure how to get it. There are a myriad of experts out there telling us how to achieve balance, but sometimes there are so many voices shouting at us to meditate, practice yoga, or be in nature that it can be hard to hear what we need to do for ourselves.
It can be daunting to find a good balance is between your work and your life. This is especially true when working from home, where it is difficult to set healthy boundaries for separating work from your day-to-day life. A recent study cited that 77 percent of Americans who work a full-time job have experienced burnout. Finding balance, especially as a remote worker, can help eliminate this burnout.
Here are five simple ways that we can accomplish that important work-life balance that we all desperately need.
1. Build physical boundaries
When setting work-life boundaries, sometimes setting a physical boundary can be incredibly helpful.
Designate an area in your home that would work as an office. This doesn't have to be your conventional home office situation. You can turn a closet into an office or even set a partition in a bedroom. Having a clutter-free workspace is also be imperative to you being able to concentrate and get the most value out of your work time. A home office should include some sort of desk or table to put a computer on, a reasonably comfy chair that you can sit in for a long period of time, and some sort of organizational system for your important papers and notes. Keeping a clutter-free workspace has proven to increase productivity and reduce stress.
Having this physical boundary can help create a mental boundary. This office space should be the only place you work. This can help you know that when you are sitting down at that desk, it is time to focus on your work, and when you are sitting at your kitchen table, it is time to focus on your life.
2. Set work hours
When working from home, it can be tempting to sleep in and work late. And though one of the many benefits to working remotely is that your work can revolve around your life, sometimes the opposite happens. It is too tempting to pull out the laptop at night and "finish up a few things" before you head to bed. A study conducted by The Sleep Foundation shows that the use of screens before bed negatively impacts your quality of sleep. Setting a reasonable end-time for your workday is imperative to achieving balance. End your day with enough time to enjoy a good meal, spend quality time with yourself or loved ones, and establish a nighttime routine.
Having a healthy morning routine can get your brain going, so that when the workday starts, you are ready to dive in and focus. Also, starting your day by focusing on yourself can help you achieve a sense of balance. It is all too easy to roll out of bed, eat breakfast at your desk, and start diving into emails. Then, before you know it, it is noon, and you haven't even showered yet! Things to include in a morning routine can be eating a healthy breakfast, doing an enjoyable type of physical movement, and, you know, practicing basic hygiene. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Get dressed into work clothes. We do not advocate for uncomfortable pants, but even putting on clean sweatpants can boost your mood.
To take this to the next level, set a schedule for the day. Maybe take the first hour of your workday to answer emails. Try setting your meetings during an afternoon block. Carve out some time to have a lunch break. Make yourself a nutritious lunch and eat outside. You will be surprised how much a hot lunch and some sunshine on your face can improve your mood.
There are many online tools to help you create a schedule for the day. And though these tools are very beneficial, they can also make it easy to answer emails, respond to a co-worker, or work on a project after work hours. Most of these tools have features that can be set to inform your co-workers when you are offline and when you will be back to work. Be sure to take advantage of those settings to create healthy boundaries.
Reserve an hour before quitting time to get out important emails or to polish up a presentation. The possibilities of how to structure your workday to best suit you are endless.
3. Take your work on the road
If this past year has taught us anything, it is that you can work almost anywhere. So many shared workspaces have popped up that make it easy to get out of the house for a change of scenery. If a shared workspace isn't in the budget, local libraries have private rooms you can reserve. Or you can haunt your favorite coffee shop. All you need is Wi-Fi, headphones, and a place to put your laptop.
Taking work out of the house one or two days a week can be incredibly helpful, especially if you have children at home. Despite our best efforts, our kids will be distracting us throughout the day. This can disrupt workflow, so that at the end of the day you didn't accomplish as much as you would have hoped. Finding care for your children while you get some uninterrupted work done can really help with feelings of being overwhelmed, and it helps your kids as well.
It is taxing to never leave home. When you are working a traditional job, you get to leave the house and have interaction with people outside of your family. All these things can boost your mental well-being. However, when you work remotely, you no longer do this. You stay in the same place day in and day out, aside from the occasional errands run. Choosing one or two days a week to go to a separate work location can be just the pick-me-up you need.
4. Pencil yourself in
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many times weeks will go by without us doing something for ourselves. Working remotely can turn from a full-time job into an all-the-time job if we let it. But when we reach out to friends and loved ones and set up get-togethers in advance, then we are committed. It is a lot harder to cancel on other people than it is to cancel on ourselves.
Making social plans outside of work will also help you reinforce the new workday schedule you have set for yourself. If you plan to meet a group of friends at 7:00 p.m. at your favorite restaurant, you don't have that temptation to work "just a little longer."
It is also vital to make sure you are taking care of the important things in your life. Take time to set those doctor appointments, run those errands, and take care of the business of living your life.
Doing things that you enjoy and which help you feel fulfilled is integral to creating work-life balance. The more you take care of yourself, the better you will be able to perform at your job.
5. Advocate for yourself
In most cases, a typical work contract will call for a 40-hour workweek. Are there exceptions to this? Of course. But they should be the exception, not the rule. If you have an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, etc. who is demanding more time from you, you can say no. This is key to setting work-life boundaries. If you do not have boundaries with your time, you can kiss the balance you are hoping to achieve goodbye.
When setting boundaries with a co-worker or employee, it is always best to do so in a professional manner. Having a rehearsed script can help. Saying things like, "I appreciate that this project is important. So which of the other projects we are working on should be put on the back burner so I can dedicate time to this one?" or, "To give this task the time it deserves, we are going to have to push back the due date of this other task." Speaking up for yourself can be intimidating, but it's necessary.
These things may seem simple, or you may have heard them before, but sometimes the simplest cures are the easiest to maintain. And if you have a difficult time separating work life from home life, these suggestions can be a great place to start. It can sometimes seem overwhelming going from a full-time office position to a full-time remote position. However, maintaining a work-life balance is crucial to your mental health and should take priority. Achieving this balance is possible when you start to implement the suggestions above and cater them to your unique situation.