From increased productivity to greater flexibility, working remotely has many benefits.
But when your office and your home happen to be the same place, there’s a unique set of challenges waiting to cancel out those benefits if left unaddressed.
Here are the 3 most important habits you’ll need to create the harmony you want while working remotely.
1. Working in a designated space
One of the most important parts about working from home is creating a distance between where work and life happen within your space. While it’s tempting to just wake up, roll over, and plop your computer onto your lap, that routine won’t be good for productivity or peace of mind.
Start small by giving yourself the luxury of good lighting and a comfortable seat. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a separate room to label as a home office, but that’s not always feasible or practical for all remote workers. And even then, distractions can still happen:
Focus on minimizing distractions when constructing your space. Even if you don’t have a spare room, using your bedroom, living room, or even a dining area is common as well. These tend to be areas with decreased traffic during the day.
Lastly, try to keep your environment organized. While working from home, it’s easy to have things from your personal life bleeding into your workspace. But this is not only bad for privacy reasons, but it also hinders your ability to stay focused on your work-related to-do list.
2. Enforcing digital boundaries
One of the biggest perks of working from home is that telecommuting allows you to escape the hustle and bustle of a distracting office. However, with the modern tech in our spaces, it is becoming increasingly difficult to actually preserve that peace and quiet that give us the ability to work more efficiently.
Collaboration is one of the biggest threats to our digital borders. Because there are so many ways for people to reach us, at any given time, it ‘s hard to know where work ends and life begins. This is especially prevalent for remote employees who can accidentally create an overlap between their personal life and their professional one.
If you check a quick message from your team members that popped up on your phone while you are watching TV in the evening, are you working or not working? At what point does replying to that communication turn counterproductive?
“If you had planned to be done at a certain time, then that’s the time you leave and stop working.”
The slow and steady cadence of never-ending work conversations can start to seep into our personal lives. But knowing when to say enough is enough can help us keep our sanity, and keep us from clocking 10-12 hour days on accident.
When you finish your work and shut down the computer, avoid turning to your phone and logging back into your work accounts to “just have a look.” A flexible work schedule will start to become a burden if you don’t set strict work hours and stick to them. If you had planned to be done at a certain time, then that’s the time you leave and stop working.
It might help to schedule a dinner with a friend, time to go to the gym, or just go for a walk around the block. Unlike office workers who are on site, remote employees don’t usually have a way to signify that the workday is over. Have an idea for something in place to formally signify the end of your workday, so you can cultivate a nice balance in your life instead of unintentionally putting in a lot of accidental overtime.
3. Cultivating community
Without co-workers stopping by for a chat or inviting you to grab coffee or lunch together, it’s easy to spend 8 hours straight sitting in a chair without actually talking to another human being. Sure, you might have been more productive. However, you can end up with the awful situation of your Fitbit recording 12 steps in your day (and 6 of those were to the fridge and back).
Research shows that the lack of personal interaction of an office environment can be damaging to your wellbeing in and outside of work. This is a phenomenon that’s even more pronounced for people who are already prone to depression. Compounding isolation with increased pressure to work longer hours (to prove that you’re “really working”) can be emotionally harmful, and terrible for your morale.
“A change of scenery is healthy for your mind and can help you regain focus.”
While it’s very easy to become isolated while working at home, taking steps to proactively address it before you realize you’ve gone days without human contact can help. Video conferencing and virtual chat meetings with your colleagues doesn’t count.
Take the time to take yourself out of your home office, even if it’s just for some fresh air or personal time to recharge. A change of scenery is healthy for your mind and can help you regain focus.
Another good step is spending part of your day working from home and the rest working somewhere with actual people. That can be a quiet coffee shop you like, a library nearby, and on particularly nice days, taking advantage of some outdoor space and sunlight.
As wonderful as it is to have flexibility in the workplace and the option for remote work, it does lack the energy of a community of peers or a team working towards the same goal from a shared office space.
However, with some forward planning, you can make sure that you don’t fall into the isolation trap, even while you work remotely. The convenience of a flexible schedule can allow you to find small ways to incorporate personal time as well as schedule meaningful interactions during your day.