Unplugging and loneliness are the two biggest struggles of remote work according to Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work research.
Working from home has its perks, but sometimes it feels like you’re always “on.” On one hand, it’s convenient to be able to build your work day the way you’d like and have the flexibility of taking breaks when you need them, but on the other hand, it can be difficult to actually disconnect from work at the end of the day and take some time for yourself in order to relax and recharge.
When you work from home, the separation between your work life and your home life is more important than ever. You have to set boundaries so that your work life isn’t bleeding into your personal life and vice versa.
Without being able to disconnect when you work remotely or from home it makes it that much harder to be able to focus on your job when you are working and will end up burning yourself out.
A great way to overcome those challenges is by building into your work day habits and routines that you would already normally have in place if you were working in a traditional office.
I’ve created a simple system to help me disconnect from work and relax while I’m working from home. In this article, I’ll share my tips and tricks for staying productive and focused without feeling overwhelmed.
Real quick, before we get too far into it here, if you want to connect with other remote workers or would love to make your home office space the best join my free private Facebook group, Home Office Hacks here.
Establish specific work hours and stick to them
Setting specific work hours and sticking to them can help you feel more in control of your workload. Remote workers are highly prone to working longer hours. But when you set a schedule for the time you’re going to be at work, and the time you’re done with work, it’s so much better for work-life balance.
Create an end of day shutdown ritual
At the end of your working day, as part of your daily routine the best way to unplug is create an end-of-day shut-down ritual that helps you transition from work mode to free time. This could be tidying up your workspace or writing down a few things that you are grateful for. Whatever helps you feel ready for the next day and allows for some mental downtime.
Creating new habits like this shut down ritual will go a long way in helping you achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Just like you would do if you have a morning start-up routine that you go through first thing in the morning, so too you should create a to-do list for things you need to do when you’re signing off at the end of the workday.
Close all work-related tabs and windows
If you keep your laptop open because you’re shopping, playing chess, or other non-work related activities, you need to close everything that’s work-related. Closing all of the work-related tabs on your computer will help draw a mental line between work and relaxation. This ensures that you won’t be tempted to jump back in and finish a task or read emails while trying to relax after work hours.
Use technology properly
Technology can be both helpful and distracting when it comes to working from home. Utilize tools like timers and task trackers to help you stay organized and on task, but also make sure you know how to turn them off when it’s time to relax. That goes for your work phone too. Cell phones are great tools, but because literally everyone has a cell phone now, everyone thinks that everyone else should be available 24/7. That’s not the case.
Seek out social interaction
There aren’t many things that remote employees complain about – broadly speaking, remote workers are happier and more productive when working from home.
But among their biggest challenges and struggles is loneliness, so it’s vital that you seek out social interaction, and that means leaving your house. Working from home can get lonely, especially if you are used to being around coworkers all the time. Joining a club or service organization is just one way you can find opportunities for social interaction with people who live nearby.
We are all human beings and even the less-social people among us need human interaction. There’s already enough work stress to begin with and we all need to commiserate with someone.
Designate a workspace
Having an area specifically for work will help create a clear distinction between your personal life and professional life. Unless you just don’t have the space, setting up your home office in your living room is only ever a temporary solution. A dedicated home office is the only real solution for those who want to have a remote working career.
Just as you’d leave a traditional office at the end of the day, so too when you have a home office, you need to be able to put it behind you when you’re done with work, and leave your office. This will help you stay focused when it’s time for work and give your mind a break when it’s time to relax.
Setting boundaries is essential when it comes to disconnecting from work. Part of this means working while you’re at work – work time is work time. That means waiting to handle those household chores until an appropriate break time. It also means that you don’t let your business life encroach on your personal life with things like after-hours telephone calls.
That also means that office hours end too – and that’s a good thing.
Start by setting specific hours during which you will only focus on work, and stick to them. Turn off your email notifications, put your phone on silent, and close all of your work-related tabs so that you can focus on relaxing.
Just like you have certain do’s and don’ts when you’re in a traditional office, the same principle applies for your remote work too.
Only check work emails/voicemails during working hours
Work-related communications need to wait until the next day. Checking your work emails or voicemails outside of your designated work hours can lead to feeling overwhelmed and being unable to relax. Set specific times during the day when you will check emails and voicemails, so that you won’t be tempted to overwork yourself. The only time you should be handling Slack messages or video calls during off-time hours is in the event of a real emergency. Not someone else’s failure to prepare, and not someone else’s urgent item that can wait until the next day. If it’s really an emergency you’ll get a telephone call – an actual voice call – from someone important enough to interrupt your evening.
Schedule time for physical activity
Another healthy habit that you need to incorporate into your work from home routine is scheduling healthy activity, like going for a walk before you get started in the morning, or having a set time you go to the gym.
Physical activity is important for both your physical and mental health and empowers you to do your best work. Schedule time every day to do some sort of exercise, whether that’s a quick walk or a full workout routine. This will help you stay energized throughout the day and give you something to look forward to after work.
Make time for yourself outside of work
You need to be happy and healthy do your best work, and if you want a better work-life balance when you’re working from home, you have to have as part of your non-work schedule things to look forward to.
That could mean taking a lunch break with a friend, or meeting up for happy hour with some colleagues at the end of your workday, if it’s possible. Working from home can make it easy to blur the lines between work and leisure, so it’s important to designate time for yourself that is completely free of work. This could be reading a book, listening to music, or simply taking a few minutes to just sit and have some quiet time.
Know your strengths and how your work energy flows
This one is critical. You need to know when you’re at your best and when your energy is running out. Save your hardest most creative work for those times of day when you have the most mental energy and then build your daily schedule around it. Most people get 3-4 hours of their “best time” per day, then after that, it’s starts to decline. When you know when you’re strongest it will help you arrange your work day and your work projects around those times where you can produce the highest performance work. Also, as your work energy declines you will have an indicator of when it’s either time to take a break and maybe go get some fresh air, or even time to call it a day and move on.
Set up rewards and consequences
Setting up an accountability system with rewards and consequences will help keep you motivated while also preventing burnout. Establish a reward system for yourself to incentivize staying organized and on task, and set up consequences if you find yourself slipping into overworking.
It’s possible to achieve balance while working from home, but it takes discipline and practice. Having clear expectations of yourself and setting up a system of rewards and consequences will help keep you motivated while also preventing burnout.
It’s important to remember that we don’t live to work, but work to live. Personal time is absolutely crucial for you to be able to be your best and produce your best work and it’s important to have habits and routines in place to unplug at the end of the day. While unplugging at the end of the day may be easy for some, it’s for some people their biggest challenge.
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