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How Do I Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance While Working Remotely?

Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC, EMDR certified 

What is a work-life balance? Think of it this way: you have one gallon of water per day. You have to invest some of this water to work obligations and some to your life outside of work. How much would you invest in each? 50/50? 60/40? Everyone has to decide how to balance their work with other aspects of their lives. A 50/50 balance, for example, doesn’t work for everyone. The goal is to find a balance that fits your needs and supports your wellbeing.  

Working remotely can make it difficult to establish and maintain a healthy work-life balance. You do not have the same structure or physical boundaries as those who work in a separate, designated workspace. Yet, it is possible to find a work-life balance that works for you while working remotely. 

Try these ideas to promote your work-life balance:

Designate Work Spaces

Your brain assigns meaning to spaces that are routinely used for certain activities. For example, your brain knows that you sleep in your bedroom, that you eat at a specific table, that you relax in your living room, and that you exercise at a gym or on your yoga mat. When you engage in a variety of activities in the same location, your brain may not know what you’re doing. If you check work emails in bed, you may have difficulty getting to sleep at night, as your brain might think that you are working or that you should be working. If you complete work on your couch, you may struggle to relax on that same couch after work. Try designating specific spaces or objects in your home for the completion of work tasks, such as a specific desk, chair, room, or section of your home. You can also leave your home and complete work at a separate location.

Separate Work Equipment 

You may use certain equipment (phone, computer, office supplies) for work as well as in your personal life. If you can, try to separate this equipment. For example, you can designate a phone and computer just for your work. This strategy may not be possible for all of us. If you cannot separate your work equipment, then try changing the context of how you use the equipment. For example, if you are using your phone for personal tasks, try to avoid checking work emails. If you are using your couch to relax, remove any work related materials from the couch in order to reclaim your personal space. 

Know Your Employers’ Expectations 

When working remotely, it’s important to know what your employer expects of you, especially if you just transitioned to remote work. You may assume that you need to work additional hours because you’re not commuting, that you need to work harder in order to pick up the slack due to layoffs, or that you need to be on call. But, is this accurate? You need to know your expectations so that you can plan your time, energy, and resources accordingly. 

 Schedule Breaks

Working remotely can make it difficult to remember to take breaks or to schedule time off. You may think that it’s easier to work remotely and that you don’t need breaks. Also, you might have taken regular breaks based on reminders in your physical work environment. For example, perhaps you took breaks when your colleagues did, or perhaps you had a routine to grab a coffee in the morning. Without these supports, you might not be taking the breaks that you need. Try scheduling breaks and time off in order to promote a good work-life balance. If you forget, try setting an alarm to remind yourself to take a break. 

Take Advantage of Job Benefits 

What benefits does your job provide? A flexible schedule? No commute time? Free counseling? Paid time off? Identify the benefits that you have and make sure to take advantage of them. You might hesitate to use your benefits or you might feel as if you don’t need them. Yet, these benefits are structured to keep you motivated, engaged, healthy, or loyal to the organization. You are supposed to use them. It’s also important to proactively use your benefits rather than using them only reactively. For example, if your employer provides 5 free EAP (Employee Assistance Program) counseling sessions per year, you should use these sessions to promote your mental health rather than using them only if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. 

Do you need help to establish and promote a work-life balance? Symmetry Counseling provides individual therapy to help you find your way. 

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