If you worked remotely before everyone had to learn how to do it, you know that there is a difference between remote work—working outside of the office with the ability to send kids to daycare or go to a coffee shop—and working from home while during quarantine. Stuck in your house, either alone or crammed with everyone (partner, kids, pets) in the house together all day, every day.
Working remotely sounds like a dream to some people, but working from home without the benefit of distance from other people’s demands is a recipe for burnout, particularly for mothers. A survey by the healthcare startup Maven showed that 2.4 million women were suffering from burnout related to working and parenting during the pandemic, and the result was an alarming departure of women from the workforce.
Even as options for childcare, co-working spaces, and coffee shops open up, burnout threatens the productivity and well-being of anyone working from home. If you’re working remotely for the long haul, there are practices you can utilize to start to separate work life from home life and show respect to both.
Set Boundaries for Yourself and Everyone Else
The beauty of boundaries is that they protect you and other people. When the rules of engagement with your time are clear, there is less room for misunderstanding and resentment.
Some people have an office in their homes, but if the place you work is open to interruption from people you live with, you need at least one physical cue that you’re working. Headphones are a great indicator (Headphones off, “Talk to me!” Headphones on, “Wait until later.”), as well as posted signs or background music that helps you focus. It’s important to communicate what these indicators mean to those around you so that there is no ambiguity about how you are expressing the need for uninterrupted time.
The physical indicators that show you’re working should, as often as possible, be part of your routine. If your headphones go on every day at 9 a.m., for example, your kids can slowly learn to respect your time (and other people’s!) as they’re rewarded for not interrupting. Your coworkers will operate much the same way as they come to expect the times that they will or will not get a response from you.
Form Habits to Look Forward To
Depending on who you are, working from home can be a relentless distraction or an amazing deep focus zone – so focused that you forget to look up. Either way, keeping habits that bring you back down to earth a few times throughout the day can help you maintain your physical and mental health.
Research shows that long periods spent sitting down should be punctuated by movement every thirty minutes to an hour. That’s a great opportunity for people who worry about chores to put in a load of laundry, or for people who obsess over challenges at work to get up and take a walk outside, refreshing their brains to approach the problem differently.
Set timers throughout your day to remind yourself to get up and move, have your favorite afternoon cup of coffee, or chat with your partner for a few minutes before you get back to work. Small habits that pull you away from your workstation will help you feel more connected to your personal life and give you renewed energy to focus on your work.
Take Rewarding Yourself Seriously
At The ONE Thing, we’re strong believers in rewarding yourself for small victories. Working from home, whether you’re surrounded by distractions or battling isolation, is a day-to-day journey of frustrations and wins that need to be celebrated, even in small ways.
If your non-work time is spent on chores or other responsibilities, even a short solo walk, a chapter of a book, or a favorite TV show can become a rejuvenating part of your day. If you spend a lot of your working days alone, your reward might look like a walk with a friend or a trip to the store to people-watch and pick up a favorite treat for dinner. Rewards for handling your time well don’t have to be extravagant, but they do, like the rest of your time, have to be planned well! Put time in your schedule to take care of yourself and stick to it.
Working from home is a challenge, even if private offices, coffee shop visits, or co-working spaces are an option for you. When you don’t have cubicles and coworkers as physical reminders of your time, you need to set boundaries and work on a consistent schedule to keep yourself happy, healthy, and productive.