Creating boundaries between your personal and professional life when working remotely is essential to your well-being and happiness.
Usually work life is a thing that often goes wrong. You don’t balance or create the whole world and your work. Work is an important part of life.
But for most workers, the knowledge to balance work and personal life in a healthy and productive way is new. It didn’t start during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it wasn’t exclusive to people working remotely. It’s been relatively relevant since business email became easily accessible away from the workplace. If you can access email, work messages, or other information while you work (evenings, weekends, on vacation or sick at home), then you probably know deeply that you need to stop, but you don’t want to disappoint your coworkers or big projects. failed just because you weren’t around.
Total Separation Isn’t the Answer
Creating a total separation between work and personal time is usually not the right answer for most people. This is considered impractical, and will lead to additional stress and worry about work, no less. Also, keeping work completely away from personal time negates the main benefits of remote work, such as flexibility. Being able to choose when to work allows remote workers to take care of other obligations as they arise. Deciding to complete some work assignments after the sick child is asleep allows you to care for the sick child while they are awake.
However, the flip side is that work can infiltrate a person’s personal life and time more than they would like. When you’re always available, it’s hard to say no and draw the line when you need it. How do you know what the right balance to strike yourself is and how do you actually do it?
Tech-Based Tips for Better Work-Personal Life Balance
1. Disable or Severely Limit Notifications
One of the most important and effective ways to protect my time is to disable most notifications and select the ones I need to be helpful but not distracting. My work email doesn’t sound or flash notifications on my screen when a new message arrives, not when I’m not working, and neither when I’m at work. I let Slack show a notification badge when I have a new important message, but most of the Slack channels I’m on are muted. I allow calendar notifications to chime in and remind me of an upcoming meeting, but even there I limit it to an on-screen alert usually five minutes in advance instead of a reminder email.
The reason I turn off almost all notifications is not just to maintain a healthy work-life balance, but also to manage my attention. Very few apps on my phone have permission to send notifications at all. I want to be in control when I choose to view work email, personal email, Slack, and other apps. I don’t want my phone to tell me when to do it. Disabling or at least severely restricting notifications prevents work from forcing itself onto your personal time. It puts you in control of your time and attention.
2. Use Multiple Browser Profiles or Separate Computer Users
In this day and age ideally you would have a work computer and a personal computer, a work phone and a personal computer, and perhaps duplicate other equipment. That way, your personal computing will never be intertwined with your work and vice versa. Few people have it, but you can emulate it by separating your work and personal computing in other ways.
One way is to use two different browsers, for example Chrome for work and Firefox for personal use. You don’t even have to go that far, as some browsers let you create two different profiles that stay separate. For example, in Chrome I log into all my work accounts in one profile, where all tabs are color coded on a white and light gray background. I am simultaneously logged into my personal profile in a separate Chrome window where there is a light blue color scheme. The different colors send a direct signal to my brain about which one.
3. Schedule Messages to Send During Business Hours
Sometimes you choose to work outside of your normal working hours, but you don’t want to attract anyone’s attention. You don’t want to give the impression that you work at 8pm. because you are late for your work, when the real reason is that you spend the afternoon at family events and make a comfortable time. If you seem to be working late and people don’t know why, they may think something is wrong or they’re also expected to burn the midnight oil.
To avoid all that, schedule messages to be sent during standard business hours. You can compose team emails and messages now, but don’t send them now. Look for a function called schedule send, and use it.