Remote work is the way of the future – and it has been headed that way for a long time. One might think that the surge of remote work was mainly due to COVID-19, but I believe it was simply the spark that lit an overdue fire. 77% of millennials (and likely an even higher percentage of Gen Z) place great value on jobs with flexible hours, which a remote workplace facilitates. What’s more, according to a survey from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the #1 perk that older generations want is also flexibility.
However, because of COVID-19, many companies were thrust into remote work environments without adequate time to prepare their employees. While remote working can certainly offer plenty of flexibility, it is far more difficult to create an ideal work-life balance. Speaking for myself, helping my employees achieve such a balance has been a trial-and-error process.
To make your own process easier, I wanted to share some of my top tips for helping your remote team create healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives.
My Top Tips for a Work-Life Balance
Creating a work-life balance really comes down to prioritization. Communication tools, time management, planning and scheduling, and productivity techniques can all help your team members manager their workday and keep tasks from bleeding into their personal lives.
Set a Schedule
When your employees have the flexibility to work at any location, they may feel as if they must be available online at any time of day or night. What’s more, if they have a different schedule from the rest of their team, they may feel like they need to have increased availability to accommodate the needs of other members. This can lead to worker burnout – so I encourage my team to set a schedule and actually stick to it. Each member knows exactly when they can and can’t reach each other – this means that they are free to plan personal activities outside of the workday and have a manageable amount of availability.
If your employees find that they are constantly finding reasons to begin their workday earlier (or, perhaps, end it later), then this could be a sign that they need to adjust their working hours.
Indicate Your Offline and Online Hours With Communication Tools
Once you have figured out a daily schedule that is compatible with your needs (and that makes sense when integrated into your team), you should use tools to publicize your available hours. This way, team members who are located in different time zones can be respectful and mindful of your scheduled off-time.
For instance, you can encourage your team to adjust their Slack availability and prohibit notifications before or after a specified time of day. They can also use Google Calendar to indicate their working hours and automatically turn down events that occur outside of their available hours.
Take Breaks Throughout the Day
A huge perk of a remote work lifestyle is increased productivity. Since you don’t have to deal with a commute, intra-office wandering, or gossiping with deskmates, you can spend more time on work. However, there is definitely an element of solitude – and perhaps even monotony – inherent to working alone. Taking breaks throughout the day can help you feel more refreshed and take on tasks with renewed vigor.
Suggest to your employees that they use errands to break up their day when they are in need of taking a few minutes away from their workspace. This has a couple of benefits:
A 20 minute break (for instance, heading to the post office) can be plenty of time to renew their focus.
By completing errands during the workday, they can focus on personal hobbies and activities during their offline time.
Make Plans for Offline Hours
While this definitely isn’t something you can enforce, you can encourage your employees to truly step away from their desk once the day is finished. Sometimes, it might feel like there is no reason to log off from work when you are working from a home office. But if your team makes plans for when they finished with work (such as going to a Zumba class or heading out for a happy hour with friends), they’ll have a real reason to sign off for the night.
Prepare for Work Like You’re Going Into the Office
When your employees are part of a remote team, they might not have to rush around in the morning like they would if they worked from an office. However, part of getting into the right headspace for work includes getting dressed and following a morning routine. This will not only help them wake up and be mentally prepared for being productive, but they will also be less likely to feel sleepy partway through the day. While you can’t necessarily ask your team to dress professionally at home, you can encourage them to develop a morning routine that separates their workday from their weekends.
Create a Separate Workspace Within Your Home
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip for a work-life balance – just as your employees should prepare themselves in order to have a productive remote workday, they can also boost their focus by creating a home office. When you work from home, it can be much more distracting than being at the office. Firstly, you’re by yourself and you don’t have nearby coworkers that motivate you to stay on top of tasks. What’s more, a home has plenty of things to do that aren’t related to work – such as laundry, pets, and Netflix. Stress the importance of a neat, clutter-free workspace to your employees.
Why a Work-Life Balance Is Important
It may seem like a lot of work to incorporate all of these practices, but they will be well worth it. When employees have a poor remote work-life balance, this happiness and health will be negatively impacted. They may feel more stressed or anxious and believe that they have less control over the facets of their lives. Conversely, work-life balance statistics show that when you give your team the tools they need to create a balance, they are likely to be happier, less stressed, and more motivated and productive.
Now, a lot of this guide has focused on what your employees can do to foster a better work-life balance. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook. Rather than simply telling your remote team members about healthy habits, you can equip them with tools to help them along the way.
4 Wellness Programs You Can Incorporate to Assist Your Team’s Remote Work Lifestyle
These proven employee wellness tactics work very well with remote workers by reducing their stress and, thus, boosting their mental and physical health.
Develop Online Social Spaces
A large portion of remote workers feel isolated – especially ones who have had a sudden, drastic shift from in-office to home-office work because of COVID. Team members who are used to having a tangible support system may feel shocked when this network is taken away. Humans are social creatures – so, to fulfill this need, it’s important to recreate the experience of workplace chatter even from a home office. You can do this by creating chat channels for your remote team on a messaging platform (and making it clear that it’s okay to talk about non-work related topics) or by hosting periodic webchats.
Make Sure Your Remote Workers Have the Necessary Collaboration Tools
Employees who are new to the remote work life may realize that they don’t have everything they need to successfully work from home. Just like with a physical office, if you want to ensure employee wellness, you must provide proper equipment and tools. When determining what tools your remote team needs access to, consider these areas:
Team chat tools
Screen sharing software
Remote desktop software
Use Time Management Apps
One way that you can proactively develop a work-life balance throughout your team is to encourage the use of time management apps – this way, remote employees can see cold, hard data regarding how often their professional life leaks into their free time. Time tracking can help your employees overcome their fear of disconnecting from the workplace.
Provide Mental Health Support
While working from home can reduce certain stress factors (like traffic), remote working does come with its own set of challenges in regards to mental health. For instance, more than 40% of remote employees have a hard time getting a full night of sleep – which can lead to significant mental health symptoms. Here are a few ways that you can offer mental health support to ease your team’s burdens:
Create wellbeing surveys. These should be sent out every quarter or so, and results should be anonymous. The goal of such surveys is to determine if there is a trend of members having a particular problem – for instance, stress, loneliness, poor motivation, or fatigued. When you’ve found a trend, you can then have a more in-depth conversation with your team and provide support.
Develop a culture of openness. Your team members should not feel like mental health is a taboo subject. Furthermore, I advise making it clear that your employees can take time off for mental health days, just as they would with a sick day.
Share resources. Instead of just sharing physical medicinal resources (i.e. dental care and eye care), share mental health resources (like counseling and online therapy).
Final Thoughts on Cultivating a Work-Life Balance for Remote Employees
Now that you have plenty of work-life balance examples, it’s time to put them into practice. As I mentioned before, I’ve tried these methods out with my team, and I’ve found them to be highly successful – and research shows that they work with remote teams across the world. However, what’s best for my team might not be best for yours. I highly suggest that you take a bit of time and mull over the needs of your team. I also recommend sending out a survey to your remote employees so you can determine which areas regarding work-life balance need to be prioritized.
At the end of the day, your focus should be on how you can facilitate a culture of balance, which will, in turn, safeguard the physical and mental health of your team.
Do you have any tips for work-life balance of your own? Let us know your favorite ones!