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How to Improve a Work-Life Balance Working Remotely

Determine working hours


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Tealfeed Guest Blog

3 years ago | 5 min read

Remote work and freelancing are transforming the traditional job market. The number of remote workers has grown by 173% since 2005, not including the number of freelancers and self-employed professionals.

Amid new self-isolation and quarantine requirements, the remote model is helping companies keep the business running, and employees retain their jobs. It’s predicted that after the pandemic is over, many enterprises will keep the remote model or increase employees’ flexibility to choose to work remotely.

There have always been arguments between employees and management. Although millennials and Gen Z are the most determined to work from home, their bosses see it as a threat to staff management. The data show quite the opposite — remote workers not only are more productive, but they also have more time for physical exercises and self-development opportunities.

Despite benefits such as a flexible schedule, enhanced performance, and more time for yourself, remote work and freelancing have drawbacks. Isolation, loneliness, and poor work-life balance are silent killers that scare off people from working remotely or freelance.

I’ve been freelancing for three years now, and I can’t say it was a bed of roses all the time. Often, you get so entangled with tasks, you start eating lunch at your desk, replying to emails while watching shows, and glancing at notifications while meditating.

It’s difficult to find that perfect work-life balance, and perhaps it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. But trying to establish boundaries, help you relax and improve your performance.

Determine working hours

Waking up without an alarm clock and starting your day whenever you feel “inspired” isn’t the most efficient way of working. Your brain is like a muscle, and it can be trained into productivity.

For instance, if you start working at 9 AM every morning, after a while, your brain will get used to being prepared at 9 AM. And while starting the day at the same hour is essential, it’s also necessary to understand when to stop. Remote work blurs the lines between work and home because you don’t have a physical break where you shut your computer and head home.

While it’s not that easy, the break starts by unplugging from work — physically and mentally. If your schedule is 9–5, then at five, it’s time to wrap up and finish the work for the day.

Work boundaries are even more chaotic for freelancers. But learning to unplug is essential, even if you’re working with several clients in different time zones. Instead of juggling irregular hours, pick the most productive time, and let your clients know. It boosts performance and builds respect for your work.

Working space only for work

Whether it’s a co-working space, cafe, or just a home office — separating a work and leisure space helps boost focus and productivity. And you don’t need to rent an expensive office space, it’s easy to find cozy and quiet cafes or public libraries with fast internet.

But during the self-isolation period, it’s more challenging to separate break time from working hours. While you can’t leave your home, you can build a temporary office base — put your desk in a different place or transform half of your bedroom into an office. Dividing your home into two areas gives a physical break between work and home.

Disconnect from work

Unplugging is difficult because, again, you don’t have a physical barrier between your work and home. Even after finishing tasks, you might keep an eye on the email box, increasing your stress levels. A recent study showed that checking your email after work is directly linked to stress, anxiety, and emotional overwhelm.

Of course, it’s difficult to unplug when you use the same computer and phone for work and off-work activities.

That’s why it’s recommended to have separate communication channels. Keep it professional — avoid communicating with your team on Facebook or a personal email, or replying at 2 AM. Probably for people occasionally working from home, it’s not a secret, but for many freelancers, the line between work and leisure communication channels is fragile.

Change your focus

The most common remote jobs require using a computer. After a long day spent sitting still and staring at the screen, your back, legs, and eyes get tired. But after work, we usually continue to sit on a couch and watch TV. Even if it feels like resting, all those body parts continue to work.

Changing your focus form a screen is essential to rest your body and mind. Try walking outside, even for 20 mins after work, and during quarantine, you can give knitting, sewing, or painting a go. Some exercises, even if it’s at home, can increase your dopamine levels and boost mood — so if your day at work wasn’t the most satisfying, replace snacking at the screen with some yoga or push-ups.

Vacation — not workation

Although this is not the best time to travel and take a vacation, taking days off should be for unwinding and enjoying your time off work, not working full time but at the beach. The same as checking your email after business hours, working during vacation increases stress levels and anxiety. When we keep working during vacation, we don’t rest, and instead, we’re stressed to work while at the same time trying to relax.

In my own experience, sometimes it’s difficult to separate work and travel. I could never enjoy both working and travelling at the same time, instead, it would give me the worst anxiety. I would get stressed to the level where the only thing I want is to go back home and focus on work in peace.

working during vacation increases stress levels and anxiety

If you have respectful clients or colleagues, they will value your vacation time. But often the problem is that we don’t respect it ourselves. We’re afraid to lose money and clients or that someone else couldn’t do our work well. But relaxation is the way to gain more in a career — a calm mind creates better ideas and sees things clearly and rationally.

Although putting work first is inevitable sometimes, especially if you need to work tirelessly to keep clients and earn enough money, it shouldn’t become your daily routine. Mixing work and pleasure leads to burnout.

Don’t be afraid to let it go — no one will die if you reply to emails in the morning. It’s proven that the best performance is when you give yourself breaks. Unplugging from work when working remotely is one of the most important breaks you can give to yourself.

This article was originally published by Eglė Račkauskaitė on medium.

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