Remote work has caused the boundaries between work and home to be virtually (pun intended) non-existent, with work-life balance becoming a bit of a fallacy. The Harvard Business Review refers to this as “the busyness paradox”, where employees and leaders alike feel the need to be constantly busy (or give the appearance of being constantly busy). However, being constantly busy often means that you’re only focusing on small, ad-hoc projects rather than the bigger picture work that can be more rewarding.
It can be difficult to gauge, especially in remote environments, how much your coworkers are actually working and what the standard is, which adds pressure to work more. If the CEO seems to be working ten hour days, shouldn’t you be too? If another employee stays late every night, do you need to as well?
“The goal is balance. The key is permission”, declares David Posen, author of Is Work Killing You? In order to find lasting balance, Posen argues, you need to allow yourself to be a little selfish. “Give yourself permission to make time ... for the things that nourish you,” he says. “The bigger issue, for many people, is guilt ... we feel badly if we do things for ourselves, rather than for work, family, and others.”
It’s important to grant yourself permission to make your health a priority. In our guide to achieving work-life balance, you can follow our action plan, including practices that you can start today along with others you can do on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis to find a work-life balance that is truly sustainable.
Continue reading for some ideas for how you can start to achieve better work-life balance today.
A ten-minute break every two hours can do wonders for your mental state, so that when you do get back down to business, you’ll be a lot more productive.
Step away from your work area to grab a drink or a snack, do a quick workout like one of Yoga with Adriene’s under 10 minute yoga sessions, or try a quick meditation.
You can also divide your work up into even smaller chunks, working for 20 minute segments, or pomodoros, and taking five minute breaks.
There are many reasons not to eat your lunch at your desk. With studies noting that eating lunch regularly at your desk can lead to heart disease, back pain, and increased risk of diabetes, stepping away can help create better work-life balance and improve health overall.
Are the few extra emails you send out really worth it? Instead, get away from work for a while. Whether you go for a walk or just head to the kitchen or couch, you’ll find you feel significantly less stressed because you gave yourself the time away from your desk.
Decide what time you will sign off—and stick to it. Knowing exactly how many hours you have in a day, you’ll actually be more productive.
As Simon Sinek explains in Start With Why, some companies will actually take away bonuses if employees don’t clock out by a certain time. Sinek writes: “wasted time has dropped to a minimum[…] Consider how much you get done the day before you go on vacation. Now imagine every day is like that.”
Clearly communicating that you are off the clock and unavailable will also help to set expectations for your coworkers. They will know to send over projects by a certain time if they’re urgent and won’t expect you to get to things after whatever time you normally sign-off. It’s important to set up and respect work and home boundaries to achieve better work-life balance.
“Technology has expanded the nine-to-five workday into the 24/7 workday, which has made it extremely difficult for employees to have personal time… In the future, every company will have flexibility programs and those that don’t will lose the battle for the top talent,” notes Dan Schawbel, founder of Workplace Trends.
To counteract the perpetual workday, determine a set period of time when you will be unreachable. Maybe that means turning off your phone during dinnertime or not answering any emails after 7pm. Let everyone know about your unavailability and resist the compulsion to check in or reply outside of office hours.
Want an action plan for achieving better work-life balance? Download our ebook: The HR Pro's Guide to Achieving Work Life Balance