This morning, I rolled over in my bed. I got up, brushed my teeth and grabbed a coffee. I plopped down on my Arrozi desk chair and pulled out my sticker-covered MacBook.
When you work from your house, your work has a way of coming home with you.
It takes a lot of effort to maintain your sanity when you walk past your laptop every few seconds. Creating that work/home barrier is crucial and can be a difficult skill to master. Creating a work-life balance helps prevent burnout and fosters our best and most creative work.
I have been working from the comfort of my own home for over three years, and during that time I have learned a lot. I now love working from home. I love being able to eat home-cooked meals right from the stove. I love not having to commute. I love the flexibility around where and when I work.
However, it didn't always come easy.
I used to always work way longer hours than I should, and never felt like I was doing enough.
I caught myself working 14 hour days often, and not having any more time for my hobbies anymore. I stopped playing the ukulele. I stopped reading for pleasure and going for hikes and I didn't see my family and friends as much.
It was so easy to just open up my laptop for work quick, only for it to turn into an hour or more.
I was experiencing eye strain from looking at a blue-tinged screen most of the time and found myself getting headaches often.
For a while, I also found that I was becoming inactive and sedentary, a real issue for remote workers.
Disconnecting from my desk helped lower my stress levels. It boosted my productivity. I got more enjoyment from other aspects of my life and become well-rounded and positive.
Set Realistic Office Hours
If you’re not getting the face to face time with your team, or with other people in general, it can feel like you’re not putting in the time and energy you should be. Sometimes, we even feel some level of guilt that we can work and watch reruns of The Office on Netflix.
Working remotely challenges our core idea of what work is and how it happens.
For example, a 2018 GoToMeeting survey found a quarter of us believe working remotely shapes major life decisions, including major purchases or continuing education.
41 percent stated working remotely is “very important” to the future of business, and their lives would be worse if they didn’t have the freedom to work remotely.
This would lead us to the conclusion that working remotely can help you strike a better life balance, right?
Actually, Remote staff have been shown to work 50-75 hours per week, averaging consistently longer days than their office-working peers.
And there’s the pure irony.
While working from anywhere can increase your sense of freedom, lessen interruptions, and remove the annoyance of a daily commute, it could actually mean you and your remote team end up working more.
Separate Your Life from your Desk
Working from your couch can be awesome. However, it's important to remember that you need to separate yourself and create separation from your job. Your job isn't your whole life, no matter how much you love it.
There was definitely a time where I wasn’t sure where home started and work ended. I would often work from my bed, in my pyjamas. I had my desk and laptop in the master bedroom. I would literally wake up to the sight of work.It was a constant reminder of all the projects I still needed to complete. It’s really hard to disconnect when you live like that.
I have since set up a designated office space in another room of my house. I can close the door and be done for the day. I don’t have to look at my computer constantly. I can keep it neat and organized, a streamlined workspace, free of distractions.
Get Up, Get Dressed, Get Organized
An important part of my day is getting dressed.
I know, it seems like one of the biggest perks of working from home is being able to wear loungewear or pyjamas all day.
I was guilty of this for months, but realized it really put a strain finding the line between work hours and home hours. When your work clothes are your sleep clothes, that can really affect your mindset. Taking the same time to get ready in the morning is key to preparing yourself for a productive work day.
Another key to success is organization. Good organization can truly do wonders.
Every morning, I start work with a 30 minute organization block. I use this time to organize and prioritize my tasks for the day, check my email, and respond to any messages from my team. I also use this time to drink some coffee and wake up. This helps to get me into a productive mindset for the entire work day.
While you're scheduling your tasks, you want to ensure you leave time for breaks. Use these breaks to move around. Maybe there will come a day where we’re all replaced with robots, but that doesn’t mean you should be stiff like one.
Get up every now and again and stretch. Go outside and loop around the block. Do a ten minute workout or quick yoga practice.
Just take breaks from sitting and staring at a screen.
Speaking of the screen, take care of your eyes! If you find your eyes are strained anyways, I would recommend using a program like Flux on your device, or to invest in a pair of blue-light filtering glasses. They have seriously saved my eyes over the years.
Have a Social Life
Cabin fever is real, and you don't need to actually be in a cabin to feel it.
When you work where you live, it can be too easy to forget there’s a whole world out there. Especially with the rise of Amazon and services like InstaCart, which make it almost scary how little you need to actually venture out.
Schedule outings with family and friends. Go out to see a movie. Leave the house for your groceries and errands. Work from a coffee shop to just be around other people.
Working remotely, and the lack of human contact can make a hit on your moral when you’re under stress or working on a big project. If you are head down at your computer for days or weeks on end, working on a new product launch or rebrand, it can truly feel like your work is all there is.
So take some time, grab a coffee with a friend or family member. Try not to talk about work. Join a group or class, or get involved in your community.
Make the Most of Communication Tools
If you ask people what they love about their jobs, most will say the people they work with in their top reasons. This should also be true for remote teams.
Take time to ask how your team is doing, what they do in their free time. In an office situation chit chat during working hours can be discouraged, but it still happens. There are lunch breaks and opportunities to talk in passing. water cooler talk is difficult when there’s no physical water cooler.
Use communication tools to communicate your hours with your team. I personally love Slack, and one of it’s extensions, Oliv. Oliv syncs your calendar with Slack and lets your team know when you’re heads down, when you’re out of office, or at lunch.
Also, if you have a team, get to know them. Slack is fantastic for this, and even offer some great ideas for social and engagement add-ons.
If you don’t have a team, check out LInkedin or Facebook groups for Entrepreneur pages and local get togethers. Network and get to know others in your field. This can help you find others you identify with, and build a sort of pseudo team.
Hold yourself Accountable, or Find Someone Who Will.
It’s good to get into the habit of practicing restraint when it comes to your work. If you get a great idea for a product or marketing strategy, jot it down, but don’t do the entire project in one go.
If you have a hard time pulling yourself out, invest in the buddy system.
My parter and I both work remotely, and share a home office. We often need to remind each other to take breaks, or to eat lunch. We are very familiar with the sight of the other leaning into the office and reminding the other that work is done for the day.
At a past employer, a co-worker and I would regularly check in with each other and tell each other to get off Slack late at night. This not only was a much needed reminder, but it also fostered a sense of care between teammates.
Disconnect, or Feel the Burnout
Burnout is a real thing. It’s so important to have a hard stop to the day. There is always work to be done, and it’s important to accept that. If you try to do everything, you will eventually get burnt out, and won’t feel like doing anything at all.
Working lengthy hours and missing out on rest time becomes normal. Your whole life becomes structured around your business, which can be detrimental to your overall health and happiness.
Of course, you want to put in the work and have your business succeed. And you should. But Entrepreneurship is a long-distance run, not a sprint. If you push too hard too fast, and don't take time to ensure you are healthy and happy, you become burnt out, and your whole business can suffer.
I’m not saying don't give 100% at work. I definitely do, and if you want your business to succeed, you should too. But that’s just it. Give 100% at work doesn't mean your work should take 100% of your time.