Some can easily switch off, while others keep an eye on work notifications long after they stopped working. How do you establish a work-life balance as a remote worker? Our team knows!November 26, 2021
As a remote worker, you’re expected to have a super-strong focus muscle.
During a workday, there's always time to read that article, find the next song, or send a quick message to friends. There’s no supervisor or “I shouldn’t be doing this in the office” guilt that drags you out of the rabbit hole.
Once the workday is over, you're tasked with successfully switching off work mode. You open Netflix and prepare to unwind … when a Slack notification appears and your plans get interrupted. 🥴
It's a challenge to strictly work during work times and unplug during personal time, especially when you're working from home by yourself.
So how do we balance life and work when they’re all up in each other’s business?
Some of our remote team members have mastered this art! We've bundled their advice into five work-life balance strategies that you can implement too.
After running a survey, built with MailerLite’s landing page builder 💁♀️, we discovered that our team’s overall work-life balance is pretty good!
The majority of the people are content, and 42% are super happy.
The parents of The Remote Company especially valued their work-life balance much better because they can work remotely. For Leopold, going remotely had a huge impact on his work-life balance.
"When I worked in an office, I was exhausted by the end of the week. Now I disconnect at 5 PM and spend time with my family and myself (just as important). Having a schedule helps me plan work and family time. I feel a lot less stressed—even my wife told me I look happier!"Leopold, Integration Engineer PHP
We care about families
At The Remote Company, parents with kids under 12 get a monthly paid day off. Fathers with newborns get one month off, and mothers get three months of paid leave. Anyone who becomes a parent through childbirth or adoption gets 1,000 USD to support their family.
Curious where I (Megan, the writer of this article) stand?
I belong to the 8% that sits in the middle. I’m most productive in coffee shops, surrounded by buzzing noises and other remote workers typing away.
Due to the restrictions, I now spend most of my week at home alone. Over time, my workweeks morphed into one continuous cycle where I never completely shut off.
Luckily, I now had my coworker’s advice to learn from. Let’s dive into their best work-life balance strategies!
Most employees walk out of an office with a sense of accomplishment. You might not have completed all your tasks, but with your computer at work, there’s not much you can do anyway.
For remote employees, this feeling is harder to achieve. After all, you can always do a bit more work—your laptop is right there!
A key component of a healthy work-life balance is to separate work and personal, know when you’ve done enough, and allow your mind to switch off work mode.
Strategies to feel accomplished:
Prioritize the tasks that need to be done that day or week
Plan ahead and write down one task to complete the next day
Leave a task if you're stuck, and come back with fresh energy later
Virtually high-five yourself once you’ve completed a task 🖐
According to this BBC article, the best time to concentrate and handle stressful events is different for everyone. Some people are more present and energetic in the morning, while others peak after dinner.
For example, Veronika likes slow mornings and productive afternoons.
“I wake up at 8 AM, prepare a coffee and open my laptop. I start the first hour with easy, repetitive tasks until I properly wake up. At noon, I hit the gym to get my daily exercise. Then I work on complex tasks until the end of the day.”Veronika, SEO Manager
I'm on Veronika's team as well (well, minus the workout). My performance peaks towards the end of the day, or even at night. I’ve written entire blogs in the evenings from 8 PM to 12 AM when most of my teammates were offline and there was no sunshine to fuel my indoor anxiety.
My colleague Dalia plans most of her work in the mornings.
"I open Slack directly when I wake up. When there are questions, I use the kindergarten commute to ponder them. Back home, work starts. Lunchbreak workouts help me recharge and mentally unload. Then I pick up my kid and finish the last hour of work in the evening with easy tasks."Dalia, Web Project Manager (and mom)
As you can read, everyone has their peak moments. You might also find that working mornings and evenings suits you much better than the classic 9-5.
That’s the beauty of remote work!
How to optimize your concentration:
Find out during which part(s) of the day you feel most productive and focused. Then schedule your tasks around it!
Many studies have found that routines stimulate mental health by reducing stress. The fewer choices your brain needs to make during a day, the happier it is. And the less stress you have, the better your focus will be.
With remote work, there’s no office desk waiting for your arrival. Your entire workday can be done from the comfort of your own bed (we’ve all been there). Yet not surprisingly, the remote colleagues that did follow a routine also rated their work-life balance above par.
Magdalena, Software Engineer at Ycode, starts every morning at 7 AM with an hour of exercise, meditation, and plant-momming. She then works until 1 PM, lunches for half an hour, and finishes work around 6 PM.
For Matias, a dedicated home office does the trick to maintain his work-life balance.
“I have a space that’s only for work, and I don't go in there during weekends. After finishing work, I force myself to go out by planning different activities. Monday and Wednesday: football. Tuesday: singing classes. Friday: social events.”Matias, QA Engineer
Another strategy is to start the day doing something you love, before diving into work emails and chat messages. This will set you off on the right track.
For example, Vanessa wakes up 2-3 hours before her shift.
“I brew coffee and take my dog to the yard for some stretches under the sun (we both do it!). Then I do chores around the house until the start of my shift at 10 AM.”Vanessa, Customer Support Manager
These are examples of routines from remote workers that are mainly working from home. However, we also have a lot of frequent travelers!
Sabina is one of our "digital nomads". She has surfed in Bali, danced salsa in Colombia, and hiked the Peruvian Andes (without taking any leave days).
"Traveling nourishes my soul, while work feeds my brain and the urge to feel needed."Sabina, Senior Support Manager
To have a good work-life balance while constantly on the go, she advises:
Don’t overdo it! I travel slow and plan multi-day trips on weekends
Get enough sleep, eat healthily and stay active. Exploring new places while working full-time can be tiring. Being fit helps to prevent, or fight, food poisoning or tropical diseases
Look for places with other digital nomads. Hanging out with people who work while traveling is super inspiring, plus there's probably good internet in that location!
For the optimal work-life balance:
Morning routines launch you into the day and prepare you to start working. Do something you love—preferably unplugged and with some moving involved
Dedicate a desk or room to be used for work purposes only
Plan time blocks for work and personal time to clearly distinguish both and give yourself a deadline to wrap up work
I’m a tab hoarder and permanently have anywhere from 5 to 25 tabs open.
You’re probably either going “oh gosh, me too” or “you’re one of THOSE!” now.
Needless to say, this tab chaos was the first action point to restore my work-life balance. I created a Todoist board (five boards are free to create), collected all tasks, and organized them into different categories.
At The Remote Company, we use Notion for task management, but I find it helpful to have my own space where I can also add reminders, smaller to-dos, articles to read, etc.
I now work on one task at a time, and only open the tabs needed for that specific task. To increase my focus, I took notes from Content Writer Erin: I used a Pomodoro timer to work in intervals. When a personal to-do pops up in my head, I save it for the tomato break.
At the end of the workday, I close all work tabs. When I continue to browse the Internet, I’m not tempted to side-eye the Slack tab. 👀
For a focused workday:
Work on one task at a time instead of multitasking. Close Slack if needed, and only open tabs related to your current task
Try Pomodoro timers to work in focused intervals with breaks
Close all work tabs when work is finished but you continue using the laptop
As much as social media can distract us during working hours, work tasks can also slide into our personal time!
To physically and mentally end her workday, Amy snoozes her Slack notifications between 7 PM and 8 AM.
“This was really hard at first, and I sometimes still check Slack. But I know that if there is an emergency, the person can always push the notification.”Amy, Content Writer
She also has a personal and work laptop (psst, that’s part of our employee benefits). She never switches them, even when she feels lazy and her work laptop is within arm's reach.
You can also use a website blocker to sign off completely. This is what Agathe does.
“I’m prone to anxiety, so at 6:15 PM I set Apple’s Screen Time feature to block all the work-related apps on my MacBook. That’s my cue to close my laptop.”Agathe, Project Manager
Matias has advice for working with colleagues in different time zones.
“Work is always “on” at The Remote Company, but I remind myself that our communication is asynchronous and we're not expected to answer directly. Having this strategy as an organization is crucial for employees to really log off work.”Matias, QA Engineer
Furthermore, he makes it a point to leave his workplace. Just mentally turning off doesn't work for him, so he physically leaves the place where he worked.
That being said, the above strategies always sound much easier in theory. For Maria, reality looks a bit different.
“I constantly check Slack and sometimes find myself working on weekends to prepare for the upcoming week. I think my main issue is that I don’t really mind being “on” all the time.”Maria, Support Operations Manager
To restore her work-life balance, she likes to book weekend getaways every few months. And laptops are strictly forbidden during these trips! Instead, she'll dive into activities like the one below: a sandal-making workshop she attended for her quarterly paid, creative day!
Kavan finds it difficult to fully switch off as well.
“Many times, ideas come to me when I’m not working, so sometimes I work in the evening as well. The exception is when I’m on holiday: I don't check any work messages and fully enjoy the present moment.”Kavan, Developer
How to really enjoy non-work time:
Don’t "slack" when you’re working, and don’t Slack when you’re not working
Plan breaks (downtime, getaways, vacations) to recharge and free your mind from work
Strengthen self-control with app blockers or physically move away from your workplace or devices
We’re curious to know what type of work-life balance strategies you use as a remote worker. Add your insights and examples in the comments. We’re looking forward to reading them! 👏
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