Remote work has been a blessing and something that many of us have enjoyed, but it isn’t without complications. Working remotely further blurs the lines between personal and professional life in a time when interconnectivity was already making that division murky. Remote work also increased the number of meetings for most employees, resulting in longer work hours. The reality of this new environment of being “always on” can create burnout and leave many feeling overworked and overwhelmed. There is a lot of buzz around creating work life balance, and how setting boundaries can help. Setting boundaries can be difficult to do emotionally and practically, it can feel like there is no way to get everything done or that setting boundaries will be seen as being difficult or create a negative perception about our dedication to our job. However, boundaries are usually respected and help realign us to the actual expectations of our job, instead of our perceptions.
In order to get more comfortable with setting and enforcing boundaries you can start with one at a time and then gradually adjust them as you feel comfortable. Here are some ideas about healthy work boundaries you can start with:
Create a time work for, and a time for yourself
Establish what your working hours are, and stick to it. When you’re not working, turn off your notifications about work messages to help keep you from getting pulled back into work. You can start by not working on the weekends. Once you’ve kept work out of your weekends, set a time to sign off for the night where you stop working. Set some kind of alarm or notice to ensure that you know when it is time to sign off. You can start slow by setting a time after 12 hours of being “on ” and then gradually working it back. For example, if you’re starting work at 8 a.m. then sign off completely for the night by 8 p.m., with the goal of moving your end time up an hour to 7 p.m. within 30 to 60 days and repeating that until you end up at a more reasonable work day. You should also block off at least 15-30 minutes in the middle of your day as a lunch break. Take the time to eat some food, stretch, refill your water and breathe. Taking breaks will help you be more productive when you get back to work, so by taking a lunch break you will come back to work refueled and better able to tackle the rest of the day.
Define your work priorities, and stick to them
Work with your leader to define your priorities and how they are measuring success. Once you know what your work priorities are, stick to them. Say no to additional tasks or work that comes your way that isn’t coming from your leader and that isn’t aligned with your priorities. If your leader is the one piling on the extra work, let them know that you won’t have enough time to complete an item with your existing tasks and ask how they would want your tasks prioritized to ensure you’re focusing on what matters most. Having that conversation will clearly communicate what time you have available, what is on your plate and that you care about focusing on the items that matter most.
Use your time off
Even if you don’t have anywhere to travel or don’t feel comfortable traveling, take a day off for yourself. Try not to schedule your day off with back to back errands, take at least part of the day to sleep in, relax and disconnect from work.
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