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Working Remotely Work-Life Balance: What You Should Know?

Software Development   -  

October 12, 2021

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Typically, a service-focused company would need to rent office places and supplies for employees to come to work. The financial cost of renting for the company aside, the long commute taken by employees to get to the office is also a disadvantage of the old model of onsite work. Consequently, it is vital for employers to move remote-able jobs online as soon as possible to save money and time for both the company and its employees. 

The Overview of Working Remotely Work-Life Balance

The Overview of Working Remotely Work-Life Balance

Another advantage of remote work is that your prospective employees are no longer restricted to the local pool, but can come from anywhere in your country, or even in another continent. Traditionally, remote jobs were primarily available in the software industry. However, the rapid proliferation of COVID-19 has made employers who were previously reluctant to remote work bring existing jobs online, and open many more remote positions. Indeed, office-based software jobs are among the first ones to go full remote.

The Overview of Working Remotely Work-Life Balance
The Overview of Working Remotely Work-Life Balance

Is remote work all that rosy and anybody can do it? The short answer is no. Take a look at remote software job postings, they are mainly open to experienced candidates. While it’s possible for talented graduates to apply, training a new employee without face-to-face interactions is a hard pass for most companies. On the other hand, for people who are not good at self-discipline, the lack of external accountability from direct management and peer-to-peer collaboration can make their productivity take a nosedive.

The 7 Working Remotely Work-Life Balance that You Need to Focus

When working from home, it could be difficult for employees to separate work and non-work times, which makes them get burned out easily. Finally, reduced socializing can put a strain on employees’ mental health. Therefore, it is important for remote workers to learn how to achieve work-life balance while working remotely. If you are a remote worker who’s looking for tips to implement, look no ahead!

1. Keep your basic needs in check

When you are constantly fatigued, you need to check first whether all your basic needs are getting met: eating, sleeping, exercising, etc. Rule those out before meandering to other possible causes. In case you discover that, for example, your sleep schedule has been hectic recently, you should start making priorities for sleeping. Have a clear, goal-oriented, actionable plan to improve your sleep.

Continue with the above example, your plan for this week may be to turn off all blue light-emitted devices an hour before sleeping. It’s easy to slip into negative coping mechanisms (such as alcoholism) when you are HALT (which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired) so look out for those signs.

For software developers, deep work can mean that you may code for several hours straight while ignoring everything else, so you should set reminders to take a break, and check in with yourself often to see if you need anything (i.e., forgetting hunger).

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2. Time management

2. Time management

Time management never gets old. For workers who are free to go about their day-to-day jobs, with handoff management, it’s even more vital for them to learn and put into effect time management techniques specific to remote work

Before starting your workday, make sure you have a ready-to-do checklist for tasks needed to be achieved today. A common mistake when making a to-do list is people often underestimate the time it takes to accomplish a task. Allow more time on a task and doing it right away will help you avoid lost time and having to bring work “home” when your workday is over. With deep work, you shouldn’t do it over a long stretch of time to prevent burnout. Block out specific periods to work on tasks. With the Pomodoro technique, you do 20 minutes of focused, deep work, followed by 5 minutes of break. After four consecutive periods like this, rest for 30 minutes. Overall, strive to finish all tasks ahead of time, even if your total work time isn’t logged by managers to increase flexibility.

3. Timed-out activities in between your remote work

We talked about doing deep work in a series of 20 minutes interlaced by 5 minutes of break in the previous section. Breaks are important because it is never healthy and productive to work on something over a long period of time. Your attention span and ability to think dwindle with time if not given rest. 

According to the latest neuroscience research, the brain has two problem-solving modes: focused (conscious thinking) and diffuse (unconscious thinking) modes. The diffuse mode occurs when you are not thinking directly about the problem. This is precisely the phase when the brain is trying to solve the problem in the background, which may manifest as an aha moment later. Therefore, it’s necessary to do anything but work during a break. Here are some suggested activities: taking a long walk, playing your guitar for 15 minutes, or firing up a battle in your favorite video games.

4. Set boundaries

In the background section, we briefly mentioned the tenuous line between work and nonwork times when you are working from home. To ensure your productivity does not suffer, you need to set boundaries. Normally, if there is no pandemic running around and your financial situation is favorable, you can set up a room/spot dedicated to working in your house (Working on your bed is a great way to mess up your “internal sensor” to differentiate work and nonwork).

Better yet, you can rent a coworking space. Working along with other people, even if they are not your coworkers can provide a sense of proximity which is omitted when you work alone at home. Having where to work now, you need to make sure that when it is time to work, start right away. Another option is to start working earlier/later, but when your workday is over, refrain from using your working spot for other activities, e.g. eating dinner on your desk. Sometimes, overtime can happen, but when your work can be done within a workday, don’t procrastinate and let your work bleed into the time when you should be recharging.

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5. Level up your hobbies

Life is not just about work. Hobbies are where you do things you enjoy without having to worry about (financial) payoffs. This is also another way to get your mind off work. Having at least 2, or 3 hobbies at a time is common. It’s easy to forget to make time for your hobbies, so do set time aside to practice them.

While programming can be a fine hobby, software developers can find more enjoyment by trying out hobbies like learning how to play piano, just for fun, not because they want to become professional pianists. Social hobbies such as dancing can ease up much-needed human interaction missed from working from home and may even net you some new friends. In this COVID-19 climate, you can join online groups to play board games or watch a football game together.

6. Consult a mental health professional

Most of the tips above are concerned with how you can change to help yourself. However, from time to time, bringing positive change to your life is not that simple if your bad habits are entrenched deeply, for example. If that’s the case, there’s no shame in asking for help from your friends and family, or even mental health professionals when you have trouble managing stuff on your own.

A counselor can take an objective look at your life and offer you a step-by-step plan to improve areas of your life that are deficient. You can learn helpful, evidence-based approaches to manage aspects of your life (i.e., how to set SMART goals) and regulate your emotions. That way, you stop falling into the trap of negative, destructive coping mechanisms (drinking, smoking, etc) when you are stressed out.

7. Closing notes on remote work

As you can probably have noticed, balance in remote work is not that much different from that in normal work. The major difference is that remote work stresses the ability to self-discipline when there is less supervision while not overdoing it (overworking). Not letting work interfere with your daily life and vice versa is the key to having not only productive work but also satisfying life.

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