Fact: Working from home doesn’t save you from burnout and work-life balance tips for remote workers are grossly underrated. Yes, I just said that all for the world to see — my lovely bosses included. (Please don’t fire me. *gulp*)
How many of you have found yourself uneasily navigating the following scenario? You hustle from the comforts of home for a job that you like, but suddenly you’re in a slump. As it turns out, you’re on the brink of burnout. And when you open this up to anyone, the answer will always thrum to the tune of, “Pero diba work-from-home ka naman? So nasa bahay ka lang?” This may come as a surprise to most office-goers, but work-life balance tips for remote workers are a need, too.
Also read: Work From Home: 13 Tips to Help You Stay Productive Amid the Coronavirus
Tips for remote workers we can all use
Imagine having no physical separation between your professional career and your personal life. That balancing act’s no mean feat, and I’m here to tell you how it could be done. Work-from-home warriors, woe no more. These tips for remote workers, from experienced digital nomads, may just restore the work-life balance you deserve.
1. Respect work & life hours
All companies have working hours — yes, even the ones that hire remote employees. If you don’t observe working hours, then that means you don’t answer to a boss or you’re the big boss in your company. We understand you’re bent on making as many bucks as you can within the limited 24 hours of a day, but hey, these tips for remote workers might help you strike a balance, too.
The point is, any person working on anything has working hours set. It can be your usual 9 to 5, or the time you set aside for finishing quota-based tasks. Stick to these hours and hold them in high regard. If you don’t respect these hours, then you can easily forget that you actually have a life to live after work. Have you cooked dinner? Who’s going to do the dishes? Are there end-of-day errands left to run? What about the kids?
In the same vein, respecting work hours means having enough self-discipline to make sure that you really are spending your “office time” working. You should responsibly enjoy your autonomy, especially when your company doesn’t keep an eye on you ala-Big Brother via webcam. One of the wonderful perks of working from home is exactly that: You’re already home. Doing away with the hassle of having to rush home after a stressful day does wonders for productivity and work-life balance, if you spend time wisely.
Manage your time with purpose
So the question is: What are you going to do with the time that you’re given when working from home? It all boils down to self-discipline and balance — the discipline to work when you’re supposed to even when no one’s watching, as well as the will to log out as soon as your workday ends. You hustle hard; you deserve that balance. Having no physical barrier or distance between work and home may be tricky, but it all starts with respecting time set aside for all things.
Surely there are enough minutes in a day to divide between all your to-dos. And if you start to feel like there’s just too much on your plate today, there’s always tomorrow. It’s a matter of developing the wisdom to know which tasks should be done ASAP and which ones have a more flexible timetable. But that’s for another entry on this list.
While most tips for remote workers address time and spatial management, let us ask you this: Work is life? Think again.
2. Stick to a routine
In line with managing your time with purpose, another top tip for remote workers is to stick to a routine. If you like being at home, then it’s safe to assume that you’re comfortable. But beware the dangers of being too comfy while working! This is where the tendency to slack off may start — and this is what will throw your day off balance. The remedy? Respect your time better by sticking to a routine.
Now, we’re not saying do as you would if you were going to the office. (But if that works for you, then by all means do!) What we mean is to set a doable daily schedule for yourself, because that’s the only way you’ll manage your time effectively. Still set your alarms, have lunch, take breaks, and don’t go overtime unless you really need to.
From personal experience, it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re a professional stationed at home. Overtime is a beast I still battle because writing and content creation normally keeps me “in the zone” for hours on end. And I’m the type of content person who does not like to be disturbed when writing, simply because my train of thought is a fragile stream of ideas. Once I lose it, it takes a while to get the groove back. But I digress.
Develop your own work-from-home schedule
The first step to sticking to a routine even if you’re working remotely is to accept that your work-from-home schedule is different from the office setup. For example, if you’d normally wake up three to four hours before work to make way for your commute and your morning ritual, that completely changes when you start working from home. Can you imagine what you can do with these spare hours since you’re technically already at work when you wake up? You can get a few more hours of sleep, cook breakfast, and maybe even squeeze in a quick morning workout.
The same concept applies for when you’re ready to call it a day. You no longer need to wait in line if you’re taking public transportation; you won’t waste precious time in traffic. Once you log out and turn off your computer, you’re free to have some time for yourself and your family. You can tick some chores off your weekly list, or go for a full-blown fitness routine before you grab dinner! The options are endless. It’s up to you to stick to a routine that will help you go about your day in the most efficient and fulfilling way.
Let me repeat: It’s equally important to respect me-time! Your personal and professional sanity depends on it! Your daily work-from-home routine doesn’t have to be complicated. Just keep things profesh during working hours, and fill the rest of the day with activities that allow you to break away from “office” tasks.
3. Don’t work where you chill
We know this is easier said than done, because not all remote workers have the luxury of ample space. But to keep it simple, avoid working where you eat, sleep, or rest. Our brain is one big biological marvel. Studies have shown that its memory capabilities allow us to associate certain things with specific activities. The smell of food triggers hunger. The sound of your alarm reminds you of the daily grind. On certain days, it might even trigger a memory from school — if you’ve kept the same alarm for years. The sight of your bed should remind you of sleep.
But working in bed might mess with your brain’s capacity to let you relax and slow down once you hit the sheets. Working on the dining table might distract you from getting the job done, especially if it’s a shared space filled with delectable treats. You don’t have to have your own home office, but it would be great if you do! A dedicated desk and a comfortable chair will work just as well.
Make space for work
Keep in mind that a space affects your overall mood and productivity; that includes lighting and noise. If your space just wants to make you want to open Netflix or Facebook or maybe even take a nap, then you might just have to redecorate — if not move to a different location altogether. The great thing about creating space for work is that you can also exit it as quickly as you entered it once the workday is over. Stepping into that space heightens focus; moving away from it affords you clarity, that life awaits after work.
4. Spruce up
There are many memes and social posts online that poke fun at the work-from-home grooming situation. And I’m sure we’ve all given into the disheveled look more than we’d like to admit. But just as space affects your ability to get down to business and focus on the task at hand, the way you look and feel (and smell? Just kidding.) does, too. Just because you work from home, doesn’t mean you can forgo hygiene and grooming habits. In fact, you should take this time to boost them since you spend more time where you do them — at home.
Take a refreshing shower before work. You can even spend a little longer preening and meditating since you won’t be factoring in travel time, given that you aren’t heading to a café or a co-working space. When you’re ready to exit from whatever telecommuting work arrangements you have, again take time to indulge in self-care habits that will make you feel brand new the next day. A beauty or mud mask? Maybe a good shave or massage? What about a deep-conditioning hair treatment?
Dress to impress
Factor in the way you dress, too. When a new workday begins, don’t just jump out of bed and start typing away! Normal office arrangements often push us to dress to look decent for others. While the same could be said for remote workers (perhaps when we have outside meetings or video calls), work-from-home warriors must also make it a point to impress themselves.
Wear clothes that will motivate you to get into the work-from-home mindset. Cleaning up well isn’t limited to aesthetics; work on improving your mental and emotional states, too. Spruce up outside to feel good inside! Will pajamas make you feel productive? We don’t think so. You might as well just tuck yourself in bed instead of turning on your laptop. Plus, this top tip for remote workers will help you look decent during last-minute calls and sudden dinner plans, too. It’s certainly a win-win.
5. Never take calls in an unprofessional situation
Speaking of calls, here’s a cardinal tip for remote workers that applies to the very matter. Do yourself a favour and never take calls in an unprofessional or chaotic setting. If you have a scheduled video meeting or call, make sure that you ready your space and the people you share it with. This is where it gets tricky.
Parents, let’s hope to keep the call toddler tantrum-free. Pet owners, try to minimise the barking (or meowing). No blaring music in the background, please — which you might have put on earlier to motivate yourself to finish a presentation. Your co-workers will know if you’re taking the call in the kitchen, too. The sounds of food prep are hard to ignore.
There’s nothing wrong with this if you’re used to working around these situations, but your colleagues might not feel the same. Disruptions during remote meetings can be minimised, because we should have more control over our respective spaces. Unless you’re met with ruckus from road repairs in your area; those kinds of things can’t be helped. Best to put your mic on mute.
Have go-to plans for work interactions
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. This mostly applies to remote employees who prefer to work outside of home. We know we can’t choose the people we share a co-working space with, but most of them will usually follow co-working etiquette.
Also read: 13 Coworking Spaces in Manila for Digital Nomads [UPDATED 2020]
At home, though, be sure to have go-to plans for work-related interactions. You already know that you work remotely and that digital meetings are a thing now, so make some adjustments for them. If you don’t have a dedicated space (which you should; see #3), then maybe you can step out or ask people inside the house to tone it down. Make sure that space is kept tidy, too. That should help keep an air of professionalism even during virtual meetings.
6. Learn when to step in & know when to look away
The thing about working from home is, one way or another, you’ll still get notifications from the office as long as you’re online… which is practically all the time. And that’s cool within work hours. But what happens when you start to receive these notifications and messages long after dinner? What happens when you receive emails during the weekend? The answer is simple: It’s up to you.
Differentiate between urgent matters & things that can wait
While you’re expected to answer all work-related concerns during weekdays and official office hours, you can take a breather during time off. Upon receiving the same notifs even when you’re not supposed to be working, you have two options: Ignore it until work resumes or address the concern right away.
We’re all good workers here, so I know most of you will gravitate towards getting work done right away to make a good impression. After all, that would speak volumes about your work ethic, right? But have you ever thought that by keeping work within work hours, you’re also helping other people live better? You’re telling them that you have a life outside work, and they should, too.
So here’s something to consider when it comes to work notifs on non-work days. Ask yourself: Is it urgent? Or can it wait? If results aren’t time-sensitive, then by all means wait until it’s Monday.
7. Take breaks as you would in the office
You’re not in the office, we know. But you should take breaks as you would if you were there — only your work-from-home breaks would be infinitely better. Why, you ask? Because you can either choose to totally chill out (e.g. take a nap in bed, but don’t forget to set your alarm!) or be productive, but at home. Use your breaks to exercise or stretch. Maybe the dishes need washing; that would certainly be an efficient way to make sure chores don’t pile up. Go ahead and whip up an elaborate snack. Pair it with a latte for that extra zing.
Make it a point to re-energise
However you choose to use your breaks, just make sure that you end up re-energised for better productivity. Keep in mind that you still have to get back to work after your break-from-home. On a personal note, I find that most remote workers forget to take breaks because it’s easy to lose track of time while working comfortably. If this happens to you, set alarms for breaks. Or use productivity apps and techniques like Pomodoro. Some apps will even remind you to keep hydration levels up by taking water breaks. Nifty, huh? You’ll have many options!
Also read: How to Work From Home Productively, Without Losing Your Sanity
8. Compartmentalise documents, files, & apps
This is a trick I learned when I had to upgrade my phone but my old unit was still working fine despite it being outdated. What to do with two gadgets? Let them help you compartmentalise your life! While all work-related apps stayed on my old phone, I made sure that my new phone didn’t have them. So on weekends, I still had full access to my personal phone (minus the work-related notifications!) but would check my “work phone” from time to time. You don’t need two gadgets to do this, though.
Let technology help you
Some people opt to use different storage clouds and browsers so their work files don’t mix with personal documents. I know a few who uninstall work-related apps during the weekend and re-install them come Monday — this might work for you, too! Others keep it simple with different folders on their computers.
With less to zero barriers between work life and personal life, remote employees often find themselves checking on work way past their usual hours. If you haven’t developed the skill I talked about in #6, then maybe you need some technological support. Organise your files and apps so that they don’t needlessly let work-related matters mingle with personal concerns.
9. Actually keep track of to-dos & overtime hours
I’m sure you’re seeing a trend here. It seems that work-life balance for remote workers depends largely on two things: self-discipline and time management. If you’re problematic in these areas, then I suggest you rethink work-from-home arrangements. The truth is, remote work is not for everyone. But with these tips for remote workers, you might just develop a knack for it!
Maintain a to-do list
Without a manager hovering over you for most of the day, you’re left to your own devices. Sure, your boss will let you know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done; but only you can track where exactly you are in terms of progress. Only you can honestly say if you’re excelling or slacking off. Our reco? Keep a to-do list. This way, you can track your daily progress and see if you’re actually accomplishing tasks and making deadlines.
Your to-dos aren’t the only thing you’re supposed to be tracking for yourself. Also note how many hours a day you spend on overtime. This allows you to assess how you purposely spend your time when working out of the office. Are you going overtime because the tasks actually demand it, or is there a way you can improve your own productivity and time management? We can give you all the tips for remote workers we can think of, but only you can determine if you’re overworked or not.
10. Do something for yourself everyday, at work & at home
When was the last time you did something for yourself? Even if you note all the tips for remote workers that you can find, if you’re stressed, you’re stressed. Looking for ways to unwind at home before or after your shift? Backtrack to #2 and #4. By allotting time to be nice to yourself, you increase your chances of being motivated to do better at work.
Being nice to yourself applies to your professional life, too. It can come in the form of deciding not to overload your daily KPI. Or, you can also remind yourself to acknowledge your triumphs, no matter how small or big they are. Marking jobs-well-done with some feel-good activities at the end of the day (or week) conditions your brain to do more stellar work. It’s good ol’ delayed gratification. Reward yourself after — not before — a task is accomplished. If you’re uninspired and exhausted in the middle of work, remember, you can always take a break. Working from home doesn’t mean all you’ll do at home is work!
Don’t render these tips for remote workers useless!
Whether you journey to the office everyday or hustle from home, we can all agree on one thing: We work damn hard to earn a living. Pat yourself on the back for doing that 365 days in a year, and just remember, work isn’t life. It’s just a huge chunk of it — don’t leave the other parts to wither unnoticed because they’re mostly the ones you come home to after a tiring day at work.