How to Set Work-Life Boundaries as A Remote Worker

With the rise of remote work, many of us have been struggling with creating a clear division between our professional and personal lives, which can have an impact on our overall wellness.

“The past 12 months have been challenging for everyone, as the line between work and home has completely blurred,” says Martha Switzer, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of digital workplace wellness platform Sprout. “We don't have the same types of cues as to when to start and stop working — no appointments to get to, commutes or fitness dates after work. We roll from one home activity into the other, and we’ve also lost important social connections.” The result: higher levels of exhaustion, stress and burnout.

While a sense of overwhelm may feel like the new normal, don’t fret — there are practical, achievable ways to create healthy boundaries between your work and home life. Here’s how.

 Create a dedicated work zone

Carving out a physical space in your home exclusively for work can help you mentally separate when the workday is over. “Select one area of your home where you perform your job — try not to pick the bedroom,” says Switzer. “You will be signalling to yourself when you need to be ‘on’ and when it's time to relax.”

Need incentive to create a designated work area? Snag some aesthetically pleasing office supplies. “In terms of self-care, there’s nothing better for boosting your mood,” says Heather Barnes, teacher, and blogger at Our Barnes Yard. “Buying cute office supplies for working from anywhere always does the job – like a good pen, or a bright notebook.”

Another helpful tool to get into work mode: noise-cancelling headphones. “If I’m wearing headphones when I’m working, I’m more productive —it makes me feel more centred,” says Barnes. “None of those distractions are there.” Barnes’ pick: Sony wireless noise-cancelling headphones.

Take regular breaks

A somewhat ironic twist to working from anywhere? Many of us aren’t taking proper breaks during the day. “An eight-hour workday should not mean eight straight hours sitting at our desks,” Switzer says. “Breaks increase our focus, productivity and creativity.”

Switzer suggests scheduling active, device-free, step-away-from-the-desk breaks every 90 minutes or when you complete a task. “Block them into your calendar and set reminders,” says Switzer. “Not only will this keep you accountable, but it will help ensure the time isn’t eaten up by yet another virtual meeting invitation. Even 15 minutes can make a tremendous difference.” Try a sleek desk clock to help you track breaks or a smartwatch like this Fitbit that reminds you when it’s time to stand up.

Differentiate between work and relaxation time

If you find yourself regularly working after hours and on your days off, it’s time to create a clear separation between work and play. Depending on your individual circumstances, this might mean turning email notifications off after business hours, putting away your phone at certain times of day (or night), or planning movie and date nights on Fridays to mark the end of the workweek. Having a dedicated drawer or bin to store all of your work tools at the end of the day can be a great way to create separation. If you’re feeling creative, try creating a mobile workstation cart where you can store your laptop, pen holder, pencils, stapler, paper and other essentials.

For Barnes, it means keeping her work email app off her phone, turning notifications off, and dedicating Sundays to recharge and relax with her family. “When I started teaching, I wasn’t protective of my boundaries— I’d answer emails at all hours of the day, and I’d always be thinking of work,” says Barnes. “Now I’ve realized what a toll that can take on your mental health. The North American mindset is ‘You need to hustle, you need to grind.’ But that’s not long-term sustainable behaviour. You need to have that recharge.”

By Staples Canada

August 06, 2021