Whether you’re working from home or living the digital nomad lifestyle, working remote brings a lot of freedom: you’re able to work anywhere and everywhere (yes, even from your couch in your pajamas), and you have the flexibility to set your own hours and determine your day-to-day.
As much as that freedom is a gift, though, it can come at a price. Many remote workers, particularly those in creative fields, find it difficult to find the right balance between their personal and professional lives. They find themselves working late, or at odd hours, blending home and work life together in a way ultimately that takes a toll on their ability to creative, design or innovative. They end up less productive or struggling to unplug at the end of the day.
If that sounds like something you’d rather avoid (or correct, if you’re already having difficulties) we’ve rounded up some tips to help you keep your work/life balance so that you can stay creative, stay productive, and enjoy your home life a whole lot more, too.
Commit to Recurring Team Check-Ins.
There are certain aspects of working in a traditional office that are difficult to replicate when you are working remote. Even for those in a more creative industry, having a boss and team physically nearby keeps you on task; you can gauge, based on their behavior, when to take breaks or to head out for the day. It’s also easier to show your boss you’re working hard when you’re physically operating in the same space.
When you work remote, it’s not as easy to take cues from your teammates’ schedule, and it’s nearly impossible if different time zones mean that you have to communicate over emails or via delayed chats. It’s also harder to show you’re working efficiently when you’re physically removed from your team, and that can mean feeling extra pressure to be productive as a way to “prove” you’re responsible.
But that pressure has cascading effects that can ultimately hurt your work/life balance. You want to be ultra-responsive, so you answer messages when you should be offline. You want your boss to see you work hard, so you sign back on to Slack to complete a small task, and end up doing a few extra hours’ of work while you’re there. Add in the fact that creative work can suck you in for hours at a time -- and is often only finished when you decide it is -- and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
At first, putting in that extra energy might make you feel more connected, but working around the clock won’t help you live well or work productively in the long run. Adding a little bit of structure to help you turn on (and off!) your work will benefit you and your team in the long run.
Add Structure to Your Workday.
Working remote means a shift in thinking about what working hours can and should be. In a normal office setting, you physically have structure: when you’re in the office, you’re professional, and when you’re out of the office, you’re on your own time. When you work remote, you have to set your own structure from the ground up.
At minimum, set daily work hours and communicate them clearly with your team. Depending on your time zones, that may mean finding times to be online when your team can be, or letting them know in advance that you won’t be working just because they will be to allow them to plan accordingly.
If you’re working with one teammate on a large project, plan deadlines ahead and clearly communicate your status or connectivity issues in advance. You want to set a tone that is reliable, flexible, and supportive, while managing expectations around how much, or how often, you will be working.
Set recurring weekly check-in video calls with your team or manager. A weekly check-in keeps everyone in-the-know on ongoing tasks. You can show your manager your progress and talk through any issues on larger projects, connect with your team, or take a few minutes to shoot the breeze. Connecting weekly helps everyone stay familiar and helps with long-term morale.
Once you’ve set your structure, it’s time to stick with it: turn your phone off, shut the laptop. Physically separating yourself from work can help you mentally step away too -- that’s why it’s so vital to set up a separate office area or work outside of your house. A physical divide between your work and personal life helps you mentally separate one from another and stay more creative, too. Working from your bed or on your couch? It’s going to be harder for you to get going (or unplug) when the time comes.
In the same way physical space is important, so too is virtual space. Sign out of your work inbox at the end of the day, turn off push notifications and shut down your work laptop. If you use the same laptop for work and your personal life, set up separate desktop accounts for each. That way, when you select your personal desktop on the weekends or off hours, you’ll only see your personal files or apps during your down time.Whatever you need to do to signal to yourself that the work day is over!
In Conclusion? Do You.
Remember that being available all the time can lead to creative and professional burnout. If you aren’t careful, the remote working world’s lack of structure can leave you feeling stretched thin. Setting expectations with your team - and within yourself - to separate your work and life can help you combat those feelings and stay focused long-term. Remember: personal time is as important to productivity as being focused is, so if you need to call it a day, that’s okay!
Want more on how to work more productively? Check out these Skillshare classes for the tips, tricks, and techniques you need to know.