Achieving a perfect work-life balance: advice for the remote worker

@IE University

With the current global situation, working from home has quickly become a reality for a large number of people. But even under more normal circumstances, remote working is on the rise, giving people the flexibility to travel, connect with teams from around the world or spend more time with their family.

While not being tied to a particular place can unlock a world of new possibilities, it also comes with its challenges. The line between your personal and professional lives can become blurred, leading to either a fall in productivity or a feeling of never switching off—neither of which make for a satisfied employee or company.

But that’s not to say it’s impossible. In fact, with a few changes in habits, it’s something we can all achieve.

Set personal and professional boundaries

It’s 8:50 am. You wake up. Work starts at nine. Perfect—you can have a nine-minute snooze and open your laptop in time to begin. Right? Of course not! Your bed should never be your workstation.

When you wake up, it’s a nice feeling to be able to stay warm and get on with work. But what happens when things get stressful and tasks pile up? You begin to associate the physical space with the mental stress of work. For many, this can lead to difficulty switching off, especially at night. It’s ridiculous to sleep at your desk in your office—so don’t do it at home.

Instead, mark space for work and space for leisure. It doesn’t matter how small your living area is, you’ll always be able to find designated spaces. Preferably, you wouldn’t work in your bedroom but if you have no other option, use a desk and face away from your bed. Whatever you do, make sure you have designated work and leisure zones.

Tech is your friend

You may often be on your own, but there’s never any reason to be alone. Even when you’re far from your team, communication is essential for a happy home-working experience. There are a number of tools that can help you keep in contact with those you work with.

One of the most popular is called Slack, which is a messaging platform specifically designed for professional communication. You sign on, see who’s online, and voilà—there’s a ready-made virtual office for all your communication needs. If your company doesn’t use Slack, you can also use GSuite or Outlook’s messaging services to keep in contact.

But tech has more uses besides for communication—chief among them organization. Remaining productive in a non-professional setting can be a challenge that’s best overcome through effective planning. Tools such as Trello or Monday.com allow you to organize your day, set yourself tasks, and even collaborate among your team at a distance. Establishing targets like this will ensure you remain focused, reach your goals, and make a success out of your new remote-working lifestyle.

Embrace the power of routine

For remote workers, it becomes even more important to have a routine. When you work at an office, you have no choice but to wake up, get ready, do your morning commute, etc. Even when we don’t feel like it, we do it anyway. When working at home, you have more freedom with regard to your morning routine. But structure is important in our professional lives, and if you abandon routine entirely it will eventually affect your work.

There is good news, though—we have total control over how we establish our routine. This can change a lot from person to person, but ideally, you want to wake up in good time before you begin working, to help you get into the right mindset. Have some food, exercise, shower—whatever works for you—just be sure to treat it as a professional working day. Then, you should also schedule definitive break times throughout the day. If you sit in one spot at home, your attention span will slowly deteriorate and productivity will suffer.

For a break to be effective, you need to remove yourself from your workstation for a brief period of time. Stand up, walk around, go outside, stretch or do yoga. If you don’t do this, you will continue to lose productivity. Apart from moving, the most important part of taking a break is getting some fresh air. When we’re inside all day, we don’t notice the air becoming stuffy. But we definitely notice when there’s a breath of fresh air! If you can’t go outside at least open a window and stick your head out for a few seconds.

According to future trends, remote working is fast becoming something normal in our society. It has huge rewards in terms of work-life balance and avoiding those nasty commutes. Provided you organize your time and establish a routine, it can be a fantastic and highly rewarding way to work.