In the third instalment of her blog – you can catch the first, on maintaining creativity here and the second, on buliding culture, here, Rachel Lanham from Voodle, who is busting the myths around remote work and hybrid work, helps you flex your remote work super powers. This week, she helps remote workers learn how to create divisions between work and home, to switch off and avoid remote work burn-out:
Myth: When your home is also your office, work-time is all the time.
Reality: Remote work doesn’t have to ruin our balance.
For some, the idea of working remotely, or working from home, brings up nightmarish visions of kids screaming during video calls and dogs barking all throughout the day. There are worries of constant disruptions and a fragile work life balance that reaps havoc on one’s ability to succeed in any aspect of life.
The most obvious challenge of working from home is, well—separating your work from your home. It’s knowing when to stop working and how to stay focused at home. For many, the line between work and personal life starts to blend in a pretty unforgiving way. Too often, this struggle ultimately ends in the worst type of burnout. According to a recent study, 69% of workers are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home during COVID-19, a 35% increase since early May (51%).
But, is this the only option? Does it have to be this way? Absolutely not. If you are experiencing any signs of burnout, remote work actually provides novel opportunities to mitigate the problem. By utilizing a few small tricks and reframing the situation in your mind, you can start to leverage all of the unique benefits remote work has on life balance. Remember, a challenge is an opportunity in disguise—and this opportunity, if approached wisely, can greatly benefit your life.
What IS Work Life Balance for a Remote Worker?
Work life balance is often seen as an equilibrium point between being able to succeed in your career and your personal life. That is to say, work life balance often implies that there’s a distinct separation of these parts of our lives living in perfect harmony. Realistically, this is almost impossible. Not to mention, holding onto this belief is terrible for our mental health. Achieving any semblance of this fragile balance takes a lot of discipline and almost always comes up short. But, what if there was a better way?
For remote workers, this work life balance is often more like a juggling act that ends with work life flow. Remote workers don’t often have a clean cut boundary between their work life and personal life. The lack of a clear divide can either erupt into chaos, or turn into a beautiful flow. This flow is achieved when one is able to incorporate their professional career into their personal life without skipping a beat. Achieving work-life-flow doesn’t mean breaking down all of the barriers between work and life, some of those are there for a reason. It does however mean opening up new possibilities by thinking about the separation in a new way.
How to Take Back Your Life
The truth is, working from home is not all doom and gloom for your balance. There are plenty of techniques that will allow you to start to take back your personal life and find that balance you have been looking for. Here are some favorites.
1. Set Up a Home Office
The first step is to make sure you are setting up your home office in a way that creates healthy separation. If possible, look for a quiet private space where you can cut out distractions and step into your flow zone. If you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated space with a door, consider setting up your space out of sight from your living space. If that doesn’t work, hang a sheet over your work station as a way of keeping it out of sight—and thus, out of mind.
2. Start Times and Stop Times
One of the joys of asynchronous, remote work is that you often have a more flexible schedule. However for lots of new remote workers, this lack of structured office hours means they work far more than is required. When you are used to only having access to work materials between 9-5, it can be hard to know when to stop. One way to fight this is to set an alarm for the end of your work day and put away all of your supplies—non negotiable. Create a household rule that work is not talked about after a certain hour. Just because you are working at home doesn’t mean you need to figuratively “bring work home with you”.
3. Create a Barrier
For many, a commute is the barrier that separates work and home life. By going for a walk directly after your work day ends, you can mimic the mental break usually obtained while riding the train or sitting in traffic. That walk can then become the barrier between your work life and your personal life that you are missing. It doesn’t need to be a walk, invent a ritual that signals to your brain that the work day is over. In Germany they call this a Feierabend.
4. Get Out and Be Social!
When working from home, it can be easy to fall into the trap of becoming a bit of a hermit. In order to fulfil your social side, make a point to get out of the house and interact with friends and family when possible. If you are able to, schedule a lunch meeting with a client or coworker as an excuse to leave the house. There is a social element of being in an office everyday that needs to be replaced for optimal balance. Of course, this can be difficult during a pandemic. In the meantime, you can get some fresh air and interact with your closest circle of people.
One of the most draining and time consuming elements of remote work is the hours of video calls. These calls can really cut into your productivity, take up valuable time, and leave you feeling drained. Voodle offers a solution that helps take your time back and encourages you to bring parts of your personal life to work. Voodle allows you to share short, asynchronous video messages with your team and can be used to both replace unnecessary meetings AND bring back some of the fun to your workday.
Achieving Work Life Flow
Working remotely is no longer an excuse to let your work cut into your personal life. The idea that all personal balance goes out the window when working remotely is an unhealthy myth. By following some of these tips, you can start the path towards work life flow and achieve a balance like you could have never imagined.
Rachel Lanham is Chief Customer Officer at Voodle, the short async video platform for teams. She is an aspiring “remote-work guru” and is obsessed with the future of work and enabling every worker to feel empowered and connected