When you work remotely it’s easy to feel like you’re always ‘ON’ as the co-location of home and work can make it difficult to separate the two.
The irony is, you take a remote job to have better work-life balance but you end up working longer hours than you would working in an office. With work being so accessible when you work from home, it’s difficult to set the boundaries and you can find yourself easily shifting into work mode at any time of the day or night.
The very nature of remote work can make it necessary to stretch regular work hours longer in order to accommodate online collaboration and meetings with team members working in different time zones. Being able to switch off from work can be a major challenge. Overworking is common.
Overwork leads to feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained; stressed out. And when stressful periods are prolonged, you can burnout completely. This is when you experience emotional, mental and physical exhaustion, and reach a point where you are no longer able to meet the demands of your role.
In addition, extended periods of overworking can negatively impact your personal life. Working long hours means less time for your social life. You begin to disengage with loved ones and friends which can lead to the break down of those relationships.
In a nutshell, regularly burning the candle at both ends, so to speak, is unhealthy and will eventually catch up with you. Everyone needs downtime in order to rest and recuperate, stay healthy, and be a focused and productive worker.
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important you do something about it. Here are some tips to ensure you stay on top of your game and prevent burnout from overworking:
Be strict with your work hours.
As a first priority, discuss the expectations regarding your work time availability with managers and colleagues. Agree on ‘reasonable’ hours and the best methods of communication if something urgent should come up outside regular work hours, and stick to the arrangement. Set rules like not responding to emails after 8pm, or family time only between 5pm and 7pm.
Set a physical work/life boundary.
At the end of your work day, it can be as simple as closing the door to your office and silencing your phone. If you don’t have a door on your office, then at least turn off your computer so you can’t be tempted to look at the screen and start responding to emails at times when you should be off-duty. Essentially, try to put all work related things out of sight or on mute when you clock off for the day.
Learn how to say ‘no’.
Don’t be afraid to let your boss know when your work schedule is full and you’re unable to take on a task. When you over-commit yourself it can demonstrate a lack of time management skills. And when you try to take on too much, your quality of output can suffer as well.
Give realistic turnaround times.
When you take on tasks, always give yourself a little more time than you think you might need. It’s better to come in under time, than feel stressed trying to complete tasks in unrealistic timeframes. Once again, your boss will appreciate your better judgement of time management if you can be realistic with your schedule.
Avoid constantly checking your Inbox.
Unless this is a requirement of your job, checking every message as it pings on arrival in your inbox will eat into your productivity. You’ll get far less done in your day and find yourself having to work extended hours to keep on top of the more important things. There are many different opinions on how often you should check your emails, but the general consensus is no more than 5 times a day – first thing in the morning, mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, and end of day. This works for most people.
Get adequate sleep.
According to a survey conducted in 2015 on sleep habits by the Sleep Health Foundation, we should aim for between 7 and 9 hours sleep every night. Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine before bed, and stop working at least an hour before going to bed so the mind is restful – and don’t go to bed hungry. If possible, keep technology out of the bedroom or at least put the device on silent to ensure an uninterrupted sleep.
Combine your personal and work calendar.
This way you can easily see what commitments you have scheduled for inside and outside of work each day. You’ll find yourself more likely to stick to your regular work hours and not forget about your social life.
Get some pampering.
Schedule a massage, hair appointment or other pampering treatment on a regular basis. When you take care of yourself you’re less likely to feel run down. Don’t feel guilty, you deserve it!
Exercise is great to help you wind-down and take your mind off work. Do something regularly – a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day is optimal. It doesn’t need to be high intensity – a brisk walk can be enough. Just do it!
Don’t skip breaks throughout the day.
It’s so easy to skip meal breaks when you work at home because you don’t have the same visual or auditory queues you might have in an office. Set an alarm to go off for snack and meal breaks. Regular stretch breaks are also a good idea. Even take a walk in your garden or in a park close by. Regular short breaks away from your computer screen are a good way to refuel your brain and refocus your energy, and help you to work more productively when you are at your desk.
Go on holiday!
It’s doesn’t have to be a long holiday, even a short weekend getaway can do wonders – a change of scenery is always good for the soul. And if you’re lucky enough to have a remote job that you can do from anywhere, there’s nothing stopping you. Discuss your intentions with your employer and start planning your first adventure. You’ll be less likely to overwork when you have so many new things to discover.