Here is our list of the best remote work-life balance tips and techniques for employees.
Work from home work-life balance tips create boundaries between home life and work-life when working remotely. For example, keeping consistent hours and logging out of work apps. The purpose of these pointers is to help employees manage their time more effectively and avoid burnout.
These ideas are the remote version of work-life balance tips, and are ways to prevent work from home fatigue and optimize time management. The potential for overwork is one of the cons of working remotely.
This article includes:
- virtual work-life balance tips for employees
- causes for poor work-life balance when working remotely
- work-life balance tips for remote employees
- tips for drawing lines between work and home life when working remotely
Here is our advice.
List of remote work-life balance tips and techniques
Here is a list of remote work-life balance tips to use or to recommend to employees. These ideas improve productivity and morale and prevent remote work burnout.
1. Develop a morning routine
Many work from home employees roll out of bed and shuffle into their home offices, yet this can be a lackluster way to start the workday. Some employees do not have a set start time and wait for motivation to strike before getting to work. The result can be procrastination, and can lead to employees working later into the night to catch up. When working from home, there are fewer outside forces to encourage folks to start the workday at a set time, for instance, no traffic to beat or time clock to punch.
Creating a morning routine can make it easier to get going in the morning, and can make it easier to stick to a set end time for work. It helps to start this routine with an undelayable first step. For example, setting the coffee machine to brew automatically can motivate you to get out of bed sooner, lest you waste or have to reheat your coffee. Getting going is often the most challenging part of the routine, and once you start moving, momentum kicks in.
Routine gets you into a rhythm that turns time management from a conscious task into a habit.
2. Keep Consistent Hours
One of the biggest tips for drawing lines between work and home life when working remotely is to keep regular office hours. With remote work and flexible working arrangements, it can be tempting to work whenever. However, working sporadically can make it harder to gather momentum and can result in feeling confused about when you are on. As much as possible, try to stick to a regular schedule. You can deviate from the plan for breaks, errands, or appointments, but these detours should be occasional. Disciplining yourself with this framework will make it much easier to distinguish between “office time” and “off time.” Starting and stopping at the same times each day can help your mind transition more seamlessly.
3. Use Pomodoro Timers
Pomodoro timers can be an effective time management tool for remote workers. The Pomodoro method consists of working in 25 minute focused blocks followed by 5 minute breaks, and typically, taking a 15 minute break after four cycles. Using a timer can create a structure in an otherwise loose working environment, and help to ensure that quickly washing a couple of dishes doesn’t turn into you scrubbing the entire apartment. This tactic breaks down the workday into manageable chunks. Anticipating and limiting breaks helps you be more productive because you know that you can tackle non-work tasks in spurts instead of interrupting your workflow.
Here is a list of free online Pomodoro Timers.
4. Time Breaks and Overtime
Breaks are essential and can be great ways to destress and refocus. However, there is a difference between breaks and distractions. Workers who get sidetracked with errands or social media by day can overcompensate by working later into the night. This behavior can contribute to the feeling that remote employees work constantly. Timing breaks can be one way to ensure that you remain on track during the workday. You can either set a timer or start a stopwatch when starting a non-work task. This measurement will keep you aware of the length of the break and help motivate you to get back to work on time.
This trick can work in the opposite direction too. Often, remote employees overwork because they are not fully aware of the extra hours they are putting in until long after the fact. When you work late, start a stopwatch and log the extra hours in a spreadsheet or use time tracking software to track overtime. Putting in extra hours during certain weeks is ok, however, working excessively is not sustainable and can be a recipe for burnout.
Being aware of how you spend your time is the first step to optimizing your time. This numbers-driven approach can give you the data you need to find a better balance.
5. Take Walks
The commute serves as a buffer between home and the office. Without jumping into the car or catching the train, the lines between work and home can become more blurred. Just because you do not have to leave the house or travel for work does not mean you have to spend the whole day inside. An act as simple as taking a walk, jog, or a drive around the block at the start or end of the workday can help you transition into work or decompress afterward.
6. Get Dressed
I would be lying if I claimed to get dressed up for my remote job. I have fully embraced the WFH leggings life and may never return fully to office wear. However, I make a point to change out of my pajamas and into a fresh outfit every morning. The momentum can make it easier to get into a working mindset and improve my mood throughout the day. Outfit changes can also make it easier to transition out of the workday, as you can use the shift from business casual clothes into loungewear to help distinguish between on-hours and off-hours.
7. Have Separate Spaces for Work
Separating office space from living space is one of the best work-life balance tips for remote employees. When you do not have designated areas for work and non-work, it can start to feel as if you are always on the clock. Some folks are lucky enough to have separate rooms to set up home offices in. However, even if you do not have a room with a closable and lockable door, you should create separate spaces for work and relaxation.
For starters, make a rule not to work from bed, which can affect your sleep. Try not to work from the dinner table if you also take your meals there, or, at the very least, sit in separate chairs for work and dinner.
You can occasionally make exceptions, however, physically separating these spaces will help you mentally separate these areas.
8. Log Out of Work Apps
A quick glance at a screen triggers many episodes of overwork. Checking work apps can be automatic, and before you are fully aware of what you are doing, you find yourself responding to emails or scrolling Slack threads. Logging out of these tools at the end of the workday creates friction and prevents mindless checking.
If you cannot log out entirely, then a good compromise is to set your notifications to urgent only.
9. Say No to Unnecessary Meetings
Zoom meetings can be a sneaky time suck. Virtual meetings are easier to schedule and much easier to attend than in-person gatherings. The result is often overscheduling of video meetings and resulting Zoom fatigue. It is ok to say no to nonessential meetings, or at least, to pass on attending live. One of the perks of Zoom meetings is that they are recordable. If your input is not needed, yet, you need to know certain information conveyed in the meeting, then you can watch the recording afterward and save time by fast-forwarding through buffers and segues or skipping sections that do not pertain to your department.
Remember that this rule can go the other way as well. If you can clarify an idea more quickly via realtime conversation, then feel free to request a short Zoom meeting rather than messaging back and forth via Slack or email for hours.
10. Plan Other Commitments for Quitting Time
Having other plans at the end of the workday provides an incentive to stick to a hard stopping time. Examples might include a second job, a Zoom call or dinner with a friend, a club meeting, volunteering, or even pre-scheduling a takeout time for day’s end. Often, remote employees consent to work extra hours out of a lack of having other concrete plans. Committing to non-work activities at the end of the workday creates an external deadline that encourages staying on-task during working hours and logging out on time. In case of emergencies, you can cancel or reschedule these plans, however, outside obligations can make it easier to say no to non-urgent work.
11. Work Away from Home
Sometimes, the simplest option to avoid overworking when working remotely is to work in an entirely different space. For instance, if you are the kind of person who gets too easily distracted at home or has a hard time disconnecting from work after hours, then you may want to seek out a public space to work in so that your home and job stay as separate as possible. For example, a coworking space, a cafe or restaurant, or a friend’s house.
Here is a guide to coworking spaces.
12. Optimize Peak Hours
One of the best parts of working from home is that many remote offices offer flexible working arrangements. If allowed to create your schedule, then choose to work in the hours when you are most alert and productive. For example, getting up early before you are likely to be interrupted or working in the evenings if your creative juices flow at night. Working during your peak hours means that you will be more efficient and likelier to accomplish your objectives instead of stretching out the workday.
13. Draw Boundaries with Family
Interruptions from friends or family are one of the underlying causes for poor work-life balance when working remotely. Sometimes it is hard for family members to accept that being home does not necessarily mean being available, especially if those loved ones have never worked from home. Drawing boundaries with family members is important otherwise, you might get interrupted and distracted during working hours and find yourself compensating by working later into the night. For instance, only answer calls from your parents when you are off the clock, or hang a sign on your home office door to announce when you are in a meeting, in deep work, or up for a quick chat.
Of course, this can be hard to enforce with small children. However, you can coordinate with a partner to allow for periods of interruption-free work. While some loved ones may initially bristle at the suggestion of you needing workday space, you can often convince these folks that being able to focus fully on work during these hours means you being able to be more fully present during family or friend time.
14. Utilize Employee Monitoring Software
Using employee monitoring software is one of the most unexpected virtual work-life balance tips for employees. Many work from home employees cringe at the mention of employee monitoring software and see it as a micromanagement tool. However, these platforms can be a valuable time management tool for employees. Some folks need outside pressure to stay on task and avoid distractions, and these programs can be a helpful alternative to eyes in the office. Employee-centric platforms like RescueTime frame the program as a time management training tool rather than a platform for punishment. The program sends gentle reminders when employees stray off task, provides a breakdown of weekly time spent, and has resources and courses meant to help employees better optimize their time.
You can use these programs as a way to keep yourself on track during the workday, and your manager does not ever have to see the data. This technology can be a risk-free way to hold yourself accountable and ensure productivity during working hours.
Check out this list of employee monitoring tools.
15. Talk to your Manager about your Workload
It is easy for managers to spot overwork when they see employees arriving at work early or parked at their desks at dusk. Spotting the warning signs is much more difficult when employees work from home. If you are not an hourly employee who uses time tracking software, then your manager may not even be aware that you are pulling extra hours. If you find yourself working late every day or just not using your time effectively, feel free to reach out to your manager to discuss the possibility of lightening your workload or strategizing on ways to keep you more accountable and on track.
If management seems unreceptive, uncaring, or unsympathetic when you try to broach the subject, then the reaction may be a sign of problems with company culture. Bear in mind that it may take multiple conversations to convince management that this is an issue that needs immediate addressing. However, if leaders repeatedly deny your requests for help and better balance, then it may be time to move on and find a different remote position.
Remote work grants employees more autonomy and flexibility, yet also more responsibility. Work from home employees are responsible for supervising themselves and remaining productive throughout the workday. For years, leaders feared that remote work would lead to slacking. Yet employees actually tend to overwork more than underwork while working from home. It can be too tempting to quickly check an email or Slack and get drawn back into work after hours. Many professionals struggle to “shut off” and stop working when the workday ends, mainly because home and the office are the same place. It is critical for workers to make this distinction because otherwise, a lack of balance can lead to dissatisfaction and overwork. Breaks and boundaries help employees stay happy, creative, productive, and healthy.
Some behaviors and tips that can help remote workers strike a better balance between work and non-work and unplug even if unable to entirely leave the workplace.