Amid COVID-19, employees discovered the benefits of flexible work. They liked spending less time commuting, being able to eat meals at home, and growing closer to their families. And although pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted, many employers are adopting hybrid or remote working models. After all, about half of employees say that scheduling flexibility is a perk on par with conventional employer benefits, according to a recent Envoy report.
Unfortunately, hybrid and remote working environments blur the line between people’s personal and professional lives. During the pandemic, many employees got into the habit of being on-call all the time. They trained their employers, coworkers, and clients to think they would answer communication right away. The result? Massive burnout.
Findings from an APA survey show that more than seven out of 10 workers say they feel tense or stressed out during the workday. You can’t do your best thinking, problem-solving, executing, managing, or interacting when you’re overworked and overburdened. Yet it can be very challenging to unplug, especially when working from home full- or part-time.
As a hybrid or remote worker, you know how overwhelming this model of work can be. Don’t assume that it’s impossible to establish boundaries. Instead, try these tactics. They’ll help you reset and uncover your off button.
1. Purchase a separate work phone.
Do you conduct work outside of office hours using your personal phone? You’re not alone. Though it might seem less complicated to carry one phone, you should consider purchasing a second one that you dedicate solely to work.
A work phone allows you to control when you’re available. It’s easy to just silence it when you clock out and avoid checking it until the next morning. At first, you’ll probably have to resist picking it up “just in case.” But be diligent. In time, you’ll get the hang of storing it nightly.
2. Guard your availability.
As a hybrid or remote worker, you need time to focus. And in order to set aside time, you need to train others on what to expect when contacting you. If you’ve always jumped immediately when people ping you, they’ll just keep pinging you. On the other hand, if you start putting up guardrails — and consistently follow them — you’ll see a change in others’ expectations.
Try answering emails or texts in a single block. Don’t rush to answer everything on demand. You’ll just distract yourself from whatever you’re working on.
3. Let people know your schedule.
This is the most critical change to make. A fixed schedule will set you free, but only if you let everyone know what your schedule is. Start by creating a weekly schedule and sharing it with all your vertical relationships. These would include your boss, your immediate coworkers, and your direct reports.
For maximum impact, share your schedule with your significant other and family, too. That way, everyone can respect your schedule and your time.
4. Know the date of your next vacation.
It’s hard to stay motivated day after day when you don’t see any breaks in sight. Even if you’re not going to actually go anywhere, set aside time for a vacation in your planner. You’ll be more motivated when you know that you’re not going to work for the days or weeks you’ll be off.
When you come back to work, ease back into your role. Don’t dive in suddenly; otherwise, you’ll lose all the energy you regained during your vacation period. Instead, get up to speed and move forward slowly. And don’t forget to add another future vacation to your calendar.
5. Watch out for distracting “faux emergencies.”
Just because you’re working from home part-time doesn’t mean you can walk away from your work for every “emergency” that arises. You need to ask yourself if something really deserves your time or whether you’re just letting yourself become distracted. In the case of the latter, you could end up spinning your wheels and having to work late to make up for lost time.
A good way to gauge if you have a real or faux emergency is to ask yourself: “If I were in an office, would this be a shut-down-everything-and-leave-immediately moment? Or would I find a creative solution until I could go home as usual?” Being rigid and practical lessens the likelihood of cheating on boundaries.
The flexible work model has the potential to be an exceptional upgrade from traditional office setups. Still, it can be messy and requires adjustments. If you take time to identify and deploy best practices for remote and hybrid work, you’ll flourish in the next normal.
Mike Monroe is a Christian, husband, dad, marketer, and wannabe athlete. Mike started working at Vector Marketing in 2000 as a student at Boston College. He wanted to stick out from the crowd and develop himself professionally. Nearly two decades later, that goal hasn’t changed. Learn more at TheVectorImpact.com.