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Remote Work for Professionals and Managers: Setting Work-Life Boundaries

Another critical aspect of productivity in a remote-work configuration is the importance of setting "work-life" boundaries.

These days, you may have noticed that it's not so much a work-life "balance", as it is a work-life "blend".

And there's nothing like remote work to really drive home (no pun intended) that point.

You've also probably noticed by now that setting boundaries is more challenging when we're not in the office.

That's because the office serves as a protective barrier for our time spent on work.

At the office, we aren't bothered with roommates, kids, pets, and other domestic tasks that dilute your focus.

When we work from home, we lose that magical barrier. It's easy for life and work to blend when your office is your house and your house is your office.

Since we don't have work-life barriers already in place in our remote work setups, we must take it upon ourselves to create them.

One way to establish boundaries is to clarify your availability.

When you're in the office, your colleagues and managers can see you're on the phone, in a meeting, or out for a quick cup of coffee.

When you are working remotely, your availability is much less visible.

For this reason, make sure your colleagues, managers, and clients are clear on your hours of availability.

This includes periods where you're potentially available, but not necessarily immediately available, such as when you're eating lunch or taking the dog for a walk.

The clearer you are about your availability, the less confusion there will be on both sides, which results in much more productive and healthy team dynamics.

The other key to managing work-life boundaries is to make time for the things that matter most to you.

When we aren't in our usual flow of things, it's easy to forget about activities that were previously automatic to us.

An obvious example of this is going to the gym.

You may have had a routine where you would always swing through the gym on your way to, or from, work. You'd pop in, get your sweat on, feel that amazing endorphin rush, and that was your exercise regimen.

If that's the case, there's a good likelihood your exercise regimen has stopped because your commutes to the office have stopped.

The gym is just one example of these previously automatic activities, but they could be anything – coffee time, reading hour, yoga sessions, and so on.

Therefore, when you're working from home, you need to make sure you've set up systems to re-establish a sense of normalcy.

These systems will serve as your protective barriers when navigating the work-from-home maze.

One of the most important aspects of these routines is signaling to your brain when you are in the office versus not in the office.

The best way to do this is to establish a pre-work routine and a post-work routine.

This ties into creating a space for work, which we discussed earlier.

Once you enter that space, you've entered your office.

And as for your post-work routine, consider something like a stretching sequence, meditation session, diving into a book you're reading, a DIY project, painting. Something that switches your focus to a topic that isn't work-related.

These triggers should be obvious enough that your brain clearly knows what part of the day it's in.

All of this is very important because when you let work and life blend in an unstructured way, it's very easy to experience burn out. And trust me when I say, burnout is not fun.

So make sure you're creating the protective systems now so that you don't experience it.

You may be tempted to skip your exercise routine or work past your usual dinner time. This always seems like a great idea at the moment and it feels like you're being ultra-productive.

But it really hurts your productivity in the long-term and has deleterious effects on your wellbeing.

The reality is that if you don't give your brain a chance to reset, then it stops functioning in an optimal way – there's no way around this.

Remember as Greg pointed out, work expands to fill the time you allow for it.

So, make the most of the time that you've set aside and try not to deviate from that.


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