Working remotely might be your dream come true. By working from your home office, you avoid commutes and office distractions, making the most of your valuable time.
But where do you draw the line between work and home life? Can you avoid common family-related distractions? How do you switch off at the end of the day? Do you even want to switch off? Learn strategies for achieving a work style that keeps you productive and happy.
Consider your options
For some remote workers, creating a highly structured work-life balance is essential for productivity and mental well-being. Other remote workers do best by using a work-life integration approach, where the lines between work and home are blurred.
Some remote workers function best if they make a clear divide between their work hours and their personal time. This is called creating a work-life balance.
Achieving work-life balance can have many positive effects, including less stress, less chance that you’ll burn out, and a greater sense of well-being. If you’re the kind of person who is pulled off focus by interruptions, achieving work-life balance may be essential for you. These tips will help you get there.
1. Set a schedule
If you’re trying to achieve work-life balance, you need to set—and stick to—a schedule. This might be your most important strategy for success.
When you work from home, the lines between work and non-work can blur, with late afternoons turning into evenings and weekends becoming extra workdays. Many workers feel compelled to answer emails sent outside office hours, even if the emails are not urgent.
Not knowing when to stop work can have a negative effect on your mental health and lead to burnout. By scheduling your work hours, you will preserve your personal time, which often leads to a happier remote worker.
2. Prepare yourself for your workday
While working from home in your bathrobe might seem like a relief for a while, it’s not a look that will inspire confidence on company video calls. Research has shown that when we get dressed for work and commute, we transform from the home version of ourselves to the work version.
Cross these physical and psychological boundaries by getting dressed every morning for work and sitting in your home office area—instead of working on your laptop from the family sofa.
Consider replacing your morning commute with a walk around your neighbourhood. This will give you the time and space you need to transform into the work version of you.
3. Use communication tools and designated devices to keep your work in the office
Once you’ve set a daily schedule that feels healthy and productive, use communication tools to remind your employer and team members that you’re not always on the clock—especially if they’re in different time zones.
Use those tools to turn off work-related phone, email, and chat notifications outside your normal working hours. If you can, set your calendar to decline meetings that take place outside your schedule.
Then again, it might be simplest to keep separate laptops and phones for work and home. When you turn them off, you’re free!
Being clear about when you are working and when you are not sends a strong signal to your co-workers about where your boundaries lie. Equally, it lets your employers know that they can rely on you to be on the job during office hours.
4. Make plans after work
It can be hard to step away from a productive workday just because the clock says it’s time to quit. If you’re serious about maintaining a work-life balance, plan activities after work so you have to stop. Your plans could be a happy hour drink with friends, a workout class, or taking your kids to the park. The key is to make sure you have somewhere to go at the end of the working day.
While achieving work-life balance is about dividing your professional and personal life into separate compartments, work-life integration focuses on intentionally combining the two into a more fluid lifestyle. The major benefit of practising work-life integration is that it can be more responsive to your physical and emotional needs.
If you’re someone who has a tough time concentrating without breaks, or if you find you do your best work outside the standard 9-5 structure, work-life integration could be the best fit for you.
Take stock of your responsibilities
Integrating your work into your life could mean exercising in the middle of the day when you have a gap between meetings, instead of after work. It could involve running errands while your spouse works, switching roles halfway through the day, and completing your work in the evening. It could mean having a child on your lap during an important presentation. It might be about bringing your work along on a family vacation but making that vacation longer.
The point is that work-life integration does not recognize strict boundaries between your work and your personal life. The challenge is in fine-tuning your work, interests, hobbies, and responsibilities into a blended daily routine. A clear sign of successful work-life integration is that you, your employer, and your family are all happy with—and feel supported by—the unique blend that you’ve achieved.
Consider your optimal working conditions
Integrating your work and life can make you more productive and more in tune with your personal rhythms. Depending on your employer and the kind of work you do, you may have the benefit of working any time you want, so long as the work gets done.
Are you most productive in the morning or afternoon? Maybe you do your best work after supper.
While the traditional workday is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., part of practising work-life integration is choosing your optimal hours. This can be a real benefit for people who are extreme early birds or night owls.
Integrate work with travel
Some remote workers have found that they can conduct their work online from anywhere with reliable internet access. Does working in Australia sound good to you? How about Brazil? Or maybe you want to be inspired by majestic views of the Rocky Mountains, closer to home? They’re all possible, depending on your situation and the flexibility of your employer.
If you’re one of these country-hopping digital nomads, you could develop strong relationships all over the world that last the rest of your life. You’ll also learn about new cultures and languages, which can benefit you professionally if you work with multinational colleagues and clients.
Meeting new people and seeing new things can be stimulating but being truly on your own comes with challenges. Think carefully about whether you’re ready to leave your community and support systems behind. As with other areas of work-life integration, it’s important to find the right mix of home and away that works for you.
Also, before you decide to be a digital nomad, consider some of the bureaucratic hassles you might face. Here are a few questions to research before you fly off to a new country or province:
- Is my employer supportive? Your employer may need you to stay within a certain time zone or be available to come back to the office on short notice. And if you’re self-employed, remember to ask yourself what your customers and clients expect.
- What is the tax impact? You can’t avoid the reality of paying taxes, no matter where you work. Working for a company based in one province but living and paying taxes in another may affect your budget—you’ll want to know ahead of time. And working across international borders gets even more complex.
- What will health insurance cost? You need to be covered in case of emergency. How expensive is insurance in the place where you want to work? Can you access the health services you need? What are your options if there’s an emergency.
- Do I need a work visa? To avoid getting into trouble, you’ll need government permission to work in another country.
Make the lifestyle choices that are right for you
Whether you’re seeking work-life balance or work-life integration, your goals are to manage your responsibilities and lifestyle in the most efficient and rewarding way. If neither of these strategies is the perfect fit for you, mix and match until you get it right.