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How to Establish Effective Work-Life Boundaries in a Remote Work Era

Flowlu Team
Flowlu Team
March 13, 2024
11 min read
How to Establish Effective Work-Life Boundaries in a Remote Work Era
The distinction between work and home life can easily blur when working remotely. Unless you can achieve a good balance between the two, one or the other is likely to suffer.

Work is always there when you work remotely and can intrude in the form of emails, messages, etc. The constant connectivity can make you feel you always have to be available. Developing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression is common when you can’t ever switch off. Setting boundaries isn’t a selfish act. It's crucial for your physical, mental, and emotional health.When you set boundaries, it doesn’t mean that you’re unavailable. It means you are being intentional with your time. The following advice can help you to establish distinct work/life boundaries.

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are limits you set to protect yourself, and they come in different forms. Physical boundaries set tangible limits to your space. Creating a dedicated workspace in your home creates a physical boundary. When working remotely, you also need to set emotional boundaries. These prevent you from saying ‘yes’ when you should say ‘no’ to unreasonable requests. There are even digital boundaries you need to maintain to prevent entanglement between your personal affairs and work life. When you set boundaries, it helps you to establish realistic expectations.

1. Organize your digital space

An employer may provide a work computer so you don’t have to work on your personal computer. This makes it easier to keep work and your personal affairs separate. However, not all employers will do this. You may have to find ways to keep your digital life well organized when working remotely so one area doesn’t bleed into the other.

You must have clear digital boundaries between your work-related files, apps, activities and your personal ones. The first step you can take is to get rid of the work clutter on your device, such as system junk, cache, broken files, and forgotten folders. If you’re a Mac user, you can use free cleaners for Mac to clear clutter. This is preferable to doing it manually, which is time-consuming and can leave debris behind. Once your computer is clean and performing optimally, it is easier to maintain separate spaces on your computer for work and personal activities.

2. Create a dedicated workspace

When you commute to an office, your brain registers the separation between home and work. When you step into the office, your mind immediately starts to think about work. You need to create a similar distinction at home by creating a dedicated workspace. When you enter this space, your brain will associate it with work. Investing in an ergonomic chair, good lighting, and whatever else you need is helpful to make yourself the most comfortable and productive.

A room that’s entirely dedicated to work means you can close the door if you don’t want to be distracted. It’s harder if you have to set up a desk in a quiet corner, but it can still work. Using noise-canceling headphones can help to minimize distractions.

3. Organize your workspace

Clutter can pile up when working remotely. This can be a big distraction, and you will constantly waste time trying to find documents, etc. Make sure you have enough storage space to store files, etc. You will be more productive if you clean up your desk and organize your workspace.

When you work remotely, you will need to follow certain work practices and protocols, including safety protocols. Using digital calendars, to-do lists, and task management software can help you organize your workload and stay on top of it. You can prioritize tasks according to their urgency, track your progress, and make sure you follow all the necessary practices and protocols.

4. Set specific work hours

When you set specific work hours, you can prevent work from bleeding into your personal time. You know when to start working and when to stop. This doesn’t mean your work hours are set in stone. You can make adjustments to your schedule until it works for you.

Working remotely gives you flexibility and control over your schedule. This should allow you to accommodate unexpected circumstances or personal needs without jeopardizing your work commitments. When you have this ability, it can prevent the tug-of-war that can exist between your work and home life and achieve a more harmonious balance.

5. Take breaks

Researchers say your brain needs a break every 90 minutes to two hours. In an office setting, your work isn't continuous for eight hours without breaks. You will go to the water cooler, chat with colleagues, take a lunch break, etc. No one can work efficiently without taking breaks to refresh their brains and recharge their batteries.

Make sure your daily schedule includes breaks. Take short breaks to do a few stretching exercises or go for a walk and take a longer break for lunch. This will help you recharge and feel fresh for the rest of the day.

6. Communicate your boundaries clearly

It’s one thing to set work hours and another for colleagues and your family to respect them. The daily working hours you set need to align with your team’s core hours for communication.

In global teams, someone is always ‘online,’ so you must communicate when you will be available. This can prevent you from being woken up in the middle of the night by a colleague who has forgotten you’re in a different time zone.

  • Collaboration tools can help you prioritize tasks and how urgent they are. This can reduce the likelihood of receiving non-urgent messages during personal time.

  • If you prefer not to work on weekends but are willing to do so in the event of an emergency, clearly define what you regard as an emergency. Outline what an urgent matter looks like and how you want to be notified.

7. Manage your time effectively

Various time management techniques can help you to manage your time more effectively.

  • Pomodoro timers can ensure that you work in short, focused bursts.

  • Time blocking is a technique where you divide your day into blocks for handling different tasks. You may decide to allocate time in the morning for tasks that require critical thinking and time later in the day for less intense tasks, such as returning calls and answering emails.

  • Avoid multitasking, as it can affect your efficiency and concentration. When you focus on one task at a time, you will complete it more thoroughly and accurately.

  • Technology such as productivity and task management tools can help you save time. Flowlu is a comprehensive project management and CRM solution with an easy-to-use interface. It will help keep your work processes flowing smoothly and allow you to manage projects from anywhere.

The reward for managing your time effectively is more personal time for you to spend as you wish.

8. Set boundaries on technology

You need to resist the temptation of always being plugged in. Having a strategy to deal with your technology use is important. You can start by checking your devices at set times. This may start off at every hour, and you can wean yourself down from there.

  • Turn off visual notifications on your screens. Work-related notifications can be a constant intrusion on your family time.

  • Don’t take your phone to bed at night. The blue light from screens can affect your melatonin levels and keep you up at night.

9. Prioritize self-care

Self-care is a cornerstone of finding a healthy work/life balance.

  • Daily exercise should be a priority, and it can be as simple as taking a walk. Today it is easy to do a home workout just by putting on an exercise video and following along. A sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

  • Meditation and relaxation techniques such as yoga and deep breathing can help you deal with anxiety and cope with the stresses of the day.

  • Quality sleep ensures you are more alert and productive during the day. Using sleep hygiene techniques can help you to get better quality sleep.

  • A balanced diet ensures your body gets the nutrients it needs to fuel it. If you live on junk food, you will find you have slumps and don’t have the energy you need to get through the workday.

  • Time off ensures that you can replenish your energy and mental reserves. You shouldn’t avoid taking leave time because you have too much work to do. Taking leave days off is important when you can forget about work altogether. Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean that sick days, etc., don’t apply to you. If you schedule days off from work, resist the temptation of whipping out your laptop to reply to a few emails. Before you realize it, you may have spent hours working and sacrificed precious time with your family.

  • Socialize with coworkers by having regular informal chats during virtual breaks. You can share work issues with them and life issues when you develop closer relationships. It can be lonely to work remotely, and developing connections with co-workers through chat can keep your state of mind more positive.

10. Learn to say ‘no’

Learning to say ‘no’ is not about being unkind or rude. If you always say ‘yes’ to every request, you will take on more than you can realistically achieve. This will inevitably cause stress and resentment. It’s counterproductive and puts you on the fast track to burnout. Never apologize for sticking to your boundaries. When saying ‘no,’ you need to be respectful, assertive, and honest.

You can give answers such as the following:

  • “The project sounds interesting. What priority should I give it as I am currently working on X and Y priority projects?”

  • “I must respectfully decline as I only commit to a project when I can give it my wholehearted attention, and I’m currently busy with another demanding project.”

You can also suggest an alternative solution or someone else to delegate the task to.

When you always say ‘yes,’ you can’t sustain this for the long haul. There will always be those who push you to do more than you should do for your own well-being. Saying ‘no’ when you have another responsibility that takes precedence shows others that you respect yourself and your time, and they should, too.

11. Schedule leisure time

It may seem counterintuitive to schedule leisure time, but it can be a game-changer. Block out periods on your calendar for hobbies, leisure activities, and socializing. Make these times as non-negotiable as when scheduling a work task. You could use this time to read a book, hike, go to movies with friends, etc. The key is to do activities that you know help to nourish your soul and refresh you. During your leisure time, you can find inspiration and return to your work with renewed motivation.

12. Create a shut-down routine at the end of the day

It is easy for work hours to spill over into your personal time. Your work doesn’t end at the end of the day, and you will dramatically increase your stress if you keep working for long hours. At the end of the day, you need to discipline yourself to log out of work accounts, mute notifications, close your laptop, and step away from your workspace.

Disconnecting from your workspace-related activities and devices allows you to reclaim your evenings. It will prevent you from taking a quick glance at work emails or returning messages when you should be relaxing and unwinding. You need to spend time with your family and take personal time to enjoy your hobbies or interests.

The autonomy that comes with working remotely can pay great dividends. It can give you the opportunity to take care of personal issues, have more refueling breaks, and tackle your work with more concentration. To achieve this, you must be organized and make a consistent effort to stick to your boundaries.

Conclusion

Realizing there's an imbalance between your professional and personal life is the initial step toward rectifying it. Identifying the ideal balance can prove challenging.It isn’t necessarily about creating an equal split between the two but about ensuring that one doesn’t permanently overwhelm the other. Mastering the balance is an ongoing journey that requires conscious effort. It takes self-awareness, discipline, and communication. Changing small daily or weekly habits can make a difference over the long term. The reward will be a successful work life that complements your home life.


About the author

Sam Cohen loves writing in the business niche. He is keenly interested in covering the latest trends in the business world, especially on the technology side.

FAQs
See the most answers to the most frequently asked questions. You can find even more information in the knowledge base.
Knowledge base

Organizing digital space involves separating work-related files, apps, and activities from personal ones. This can be achieved by decluttering devices, using different user profiles, or having separate devices for work and personal use when possible.

Setting specific work hours defines clear start and end times for work, preventing it from bleeding into personal time. This structure allows for better planning of personal activities and commitments outside work.

A dedicated workspace helps the brain to associate a specific area with work, creating a mental distinction between home and work. This aids in concentration and productivity by minimizing distractions.

Flowlu Team
Flowlu Team
March 13, 2024
11 min read
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