April 14, 2020

9 Steps to Maintaining Your Work/life Boundaries

This post is based on content from remotify.work’s self-paced course for remote teams and team-leaders. The course is delivered in bite-sized chunks by Intao’s digital mentor.

Click here to find out more.

Checking what’s landed in your inbox as you get out of bed, or sending one quick email before sleep can become the norm for you as a remote worker. When your colleague calls but you’re at the supermarket, it can be hard not to answer for fear of letting them down. But look out! The real risk to your team is the harm to your well-being when the pace becomes unsustainable!

1. Identify where and when work is welcome

Take a mental tour of your typical week. Notice when and where you do your different activities: work, rest, time with friends and family, hobbies. Also, notice how you make the transition from one to the next.

  • Make a note of the places — places outside your home, rooms, or even specific pieces of furniture.
  • Make a note of the times — first thing, before lunch, Friday night etc.
  • Make a note of who you’re with — children, partner, friend, family etc.

2. Formulate boundaries

Now, formulate some boundaries, for example:

“When I’m in {place}, I am not working.”

“Between {time} and {time}, work is my main focus.”

“When I’m with {person}, I’m unavailable for work.”

3. Maintain necessary flexibility

Such stark boundaries might seem impractical. Or you might feel that enforcing them will seem inflexible, and prevent you from honouring your commitment to your team?

The need for flexibility is real. Review your boundaries to include what’s needed. For instance,

“I’m willing to be interrupted for {reason} when I’m {activity}.”

4. Review the boundaries as a whole

Imagine going through your week with these boundaries in place. Are they realistic? Can they be improved?

Make adjustments until you can picture yourself being happy with them as a whole.


Make the boundaries you want into reality by building and maintaining them

You owe this to your team

An employment relationship involves an exchange. You give your best efforts to achieve team and company goals in return for compensation. Your best efforts flow when you have a sustainable way of making your contribution and maintaining the rest of your life situation. Establishing your boundaries is necessary for your well-being and the performance of your team.

Different tactics help when enforcing different types of boundaries. Be creative and get help!

Having identified what you want to happen, it’s time to put it into practice — not always easy. Here are some tips:

5. Enforce technology boundaries

As a virtual team worker, almost every contribution you make will be through technology: devices and apps. It can be very convenient to connect personal devices to work calendars, emails and other tools. Doing so, however, opens the door to alerts and notifications that pop up when others are active.

If you can keep work on devices that you can put out of sight when you’re not working, that creates a well-defined boundary. If that’s not possible, then play with the settings on your apps and devices: many apps allow you to control what notifications get sent and when. Some tools allow you to set a schedule for when notifications will be disabled.

Which devices can you reclaim as your own? Which apps can you remove or disable from personal devices? Do it! You won’t look back!

6. Enforce physical boundaries

It may feel luxurious to engage with work from your bed, but associating the sometimes stressful world of work with your main place of rest can backfire.

Reserve some of your spaces as a sanctuary from work. Keep work devices, apps and papers out of places where they could harm your well-being.

Better yet, make a place just for work that you can have out of sight when you’re not using it. If not a separate room, then use a screen or curtain.

7. Enforce time boundaries

Because work occupies so much of our attention, it helpfully suggests itself as something you can do in peaceful moments.

When you engage in a non-work activity, do it with as much commitment as an important work meeting: you probably wouldn’t answer a personal phone-call in a meeting with a customer. Use the same organisational skills to make sure your personal life is free of unwelcome interruptions from work.

8. Manage the transition in and out of work

Finally, it’s good to recognise that entering and leaving a work-oriented frame of mind is not always easy. Sometimes, the ‘commute’ from your your home office to the kitchen is not enough!

Start, and more to the point, end your day in a way that gives you time to arrive fully in your new state. Perhaps combine the transitions with exercise: run, cycle or walk the dog!

9. Get help from your team

A Team Agreement is the perfect tool to help you reflect, agree and record on what works in your situation. Discuss your boundaries with your team-mates. Ask for and offer support so that everyone in your team can achieve a healthy balance in their lives.

This post is based on content from remotify.work’s self-paced course for remote teams and team-leaders. The course is delivered in bite-sized chunks by Intao’s digital mentor.

Click here to find out more.

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