While work may be back to business as usual for the most part, what that looks like today might be different than what it looked like two years ago. A lot of the country is still working remotely. There is shared solidarity in that experience when it happened seemingly overnight. Employees went from having a designated space in an office with office supplies to finding a way to make it work at home. If you’re still navigating through that, here are some tips to help you set boundaries and create habits to avoid burnout.
Even with the flexibility and potential freedom that comes from working remotely, there is no denying that having the structure of an in-office workplace had certain benefits. For starters, it set boundaries and habits in our lives that were absolute. A traditional workday consisted of waking up in the morning, getting ready for work, commuting, and arriving at a building. When you work remotely, mornings can sometimes be a chaotic blur. It’s easy to wake up and grab your laptop while still lying in bed. Sometimes a shower happens in the middle of the day. When that forced structure goes out the window, the best thing you can do is create that structure for yourself. You don’t have to get dressed for work the way you did previously, but changing out of your pajamas and brushing your hair is enough to separate bedtime/sleep from the beginning of the workday.
Designate a Workspace
Another benefit to working in an office is that your workspace is designated for you. When the pandemic began, most of us found ourselves working on the couch or kitchen table. Sometimes we’d move to a different space throughout the day, which caused notes and documents to be scattered throughout the home. Not only is that bad for your workflow, but it’s also bad for your home flow. While not everyone has the room in their home to have a designated office, it’s important to create a designated space that you report to each day and walk away from when work is done. Keep your office supplies organized there as well. You might even consider going to a local coffee shop or a shared local workspace.
Create a Schedule
Another aspect of working remotely is that sometimes our work hours get blurred. Depending on how the day pans out, it can be a pro and a con. The key takeaway here is to find a schedule that works for you and your lifestyle. If you prefer a solid work block of traditional hours, honor that. If you want to have flexibility with your day, identify a consistent schedule that can be repeated weekly so you can form a habit around those work hours. Barring one-off appointments that will happen occasionally, time block what your days and week will look like and stick with that schedule week over week.
Fake a Commute
As frustrating as sitting in traffic was, a lot of people used that time to mentally prepare for their day and evening. Commutes were filled with podcasts, music, game planning—whatever someone needed to prepare for the day ahead. In the evening, maybe that took the form of a silent drive home to shake the day off. With that commute no longer existing, the rituals we had ceased to exist as well. So while you don’t need to get in your car and go for a drive before coming back home to start your workday, find ways to have rituals to begin and end your workday. Some ideas are going to your local coffee shop to grab coffee before work, going for a walk, listening to a podcast, or meditating.
Remember, if this is your new normal, you want to implement strategies that will honor what you’re working towards in your career and personal life.
“If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.” –Dale Carnegie