I have found that establishing boundaries while working from home is not my strong suit. If I am not careful, I will trade in my typical eight-hour workday and spend 11-12 hours typing on my laptop instead. It is much easier to leave my work at the office when the end of the day arrives. When working from home, it is much easier to constantly work on tasks since my home is the office!
If you also find yourself checking emails at 9 p.m. or completing your to-do list at the dinner table, check out six tips that I have found help me avoid burnout while working remotely.
CREATE PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES. As a college student, I recall an incident where I had a 10-page paper to write and thought I could complete the paper from the comfort of my own bed. Guess who fell asleep and ended up writing about communication research methods at 3:30 a.m.?! I learned that dedicating an office space, not associated with leisure or relaxation, helps me with “shutting the office down” when the time comes. I use a designated desk (far away from my couch!) to work on my laptop and have conference calls.
Wherever your designated office space is, put your laptop out of sight when the day is over. This helps you avoid the temptation that arises from wanting to check “just one email…” which will inevitably turn into five emails. Finally, I also have found that I work more effectively if I ditch the pajamas for comfortable attire; I am not suggesting wearing your fanciest blazer every day, but getting dressed helps avoid the “lounge mentality” that comes when wearing pajamas.
CREATE MENTAL BOUNDARIES, AS WELL. In regard to “log off” time, I have reduced overworking by sticking to my regular 8-5 schedule and being done with tasks at 5:15 by the latest. When the clock hits 5:15, I make a conscious decision to close my laptop for the evening. You can also set a reminder on your phone that it’s time to hang out with your kids or complete a chore; this way, you begin your retreat away from your “office.”
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE TEAM BOUNDARIES! I love how, while working remotely, my office consistently meets throughout the week. The meetings bring a sense of camaraderie that is missed when you cannot walk across the hall to your coworker’s office. However, our director has made verbal agreements to keep our meetings within certain time frames; doing so eliminates spending our whole day making small talk and then stressing because minimal work has been completed. If you are hosting a meeting, create a meeting time frame upfront so members have clear expectations and efficiently share information. Also, when using messaging platforms, be conscious about leaving the conversation when you say you will (I tend to stick around for an hour if I don’t shut my laptop immediately when I say I am leaving!) Find the best way to accomplish tasks together; if a phone call is more productive, leave the messaging platform and jump on a call.
TAKE BREAKS. Whether you decide to take a brisk walk, call a family member, or put laundry in the dryer, it’s important to pace yourself and take breaks throughout your day. Working consecutively for hours on end can lead to burnout. If you need assistance scheduling breaks into your workday, I suggest using apps like Stand Up! The Work Break Timer (for iOS) or Randomly RemindMe (for Android). Both apps are free and allow you to customize reminders to fit your schedule adequately. I love using my Apple Watch to take mini-breaks throughout the day. The watch uses sensors to detect when I have been sitting too long, need to breathe, or my physical activity is low. The app sends me notifications alerting me to stand up, take a breath, or walk for a few minutes.
PRIORITIZE. Do not begin your day trying to tackle every task due in the next two weeks; instead, set goals for yourself. Use a project-management board like Monday to keep track of on-going tasks, and then make a conscious decision to cross three tasks off the list before the day is done. I have found that focusing on a never-ending task list causes me to work at all hours of the day. When I set deadlines and goals while working from home, and pace myself with breaks, I am MORE productive. Things CAN wait until tomorrow.
FINALLY, MAKE TIME FOR WHAT YOU LOVE. At the end of the day, remember that you still need a work-life balance while working remotely. Sleep, taking care of your health, and spending time exploring interests that bring you joy are important! Make long-term investments in your happiness through self-care, a hobby, or game nights with the family. Check out the bonus content to see what activities members of the CPE team are investing in that make them happy.
Just because you work from home, does not mean that your home must always be work. I hope this article inspires you to find ways to work well while completing your tasks, so you can find work-life balance and have time for the people and things you love.
See what hobbies and forms of self-care CPE team members are investing in while working from home!
Ginger Duggan, MBA, PMP
Ginger is the Assistant Director of Business Development for UTC Center for Professional Education. She says she has spent time:
- Working in her yard. Ginger says she now has time to dig into (literally) the projects she had been putting off.
- Attempting a vegetable garden. She is starting with a small, 4×4 garden.
- Meal planning. Trips to the grocery store are limited, so Ginger has been intentional about making menus two weeks at a time, with desserts DEFINITELY being a planned part of the menu.
John is the Director of UTC Center for Professional Education. His forms of self-care are:
- Maintaining a consistent schedule. He is waking up and going to bed at the same time every day to keep up a routine.
- Watching old movies. John leverages access to streaming services to find old favorites he hasn’t seen in a long time.
- Making sure to get outside. Whether it’s through gardening or taking walks to burn calories, John has seen the benefits of regularly soaking up Vitamin D.
Diane assists with Registration Support for UTC Center for Professional Education. Her interests include:
- Taking her dogs for a walk. She has found this is a great way to clear her head while letting the dogs get some exercise.
- Creating diamond art. Diane sticks beads to a sticky surface to create pictures.
- Watching old movies and TV shows. She has found that watching nostalgic TV shows is the perfect way to unwind after a long day.
Will is the Program Coordinator for UTC Center for Professional Education. He enjoys:
- Walking his dog. Will savors quality time with his good ol’ boy, Charlie.
- Starting and finishing home projects. He appreciates the satisfaction that comes with finishing a project that has been in the works for a while.
- Calling family and friends. Will is staying connected with those he cares about through simple phone calls.
Jeff is the Marketing Coordinator for UTC Center for Professional Education. His forms of self-care include:
Working out. Before quarantine, Jeff kept a fairly consistent workout routine. Now, he is finding new ways to work out at home.
- Reading. He finds that reading a good book can take away the stress and levity of the current situation.
- Participating in virtual brunches and hangouts. For Jeff, creating a space to connect with his friends is important. Each week, he sets up a time to bring his closest friends together to share comfort and laughs.
- Learning new recipes. For me, cooking is therapeutic. I enjoy being creative in the kitchen as I try making new entrees, appetizers, and desserts.
- Playing piano. I love the feeling of finishing a song I have been working on for weeks.
- Mailing handwritten letters. I love staying connected with family and friends by exchanging snail mail, and the tangible, “old-fashioned” notes we have been writing to one another make for great keepsakes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me.
Connect with me on LinkedIn.