3 Boundaries All Remote Workers Should Set

3 Boundaries All Remote Workers Should Set

Consider some of the ways you create boundaries in a conventional setting. Work hours, office space, and sick days are all built automatically into your environment.

Remote offices mean no one will be peeking over your cubicle wall and see you working on the holiday. It’s on you to establish those boundaries yourself.

Below are three different areas to establish boundaries when working remotely:

1. Setting Boundaries With Work

The most obvious place to begin—setting expectations at work.

Call Out From Work When Needed

Imagine sitting in your cubicle in a downtown office building while you’re sick. There you are in a fuzzy bathrobe blowing your nose every 30 seconds. 

Cute slippers, but no, you wouldn’t do that. Aside from your coworkers spraying Lysol like it’s an air freshener, you need to recharge. You can’t be putting out your best work until you’ve recuperated.

Beyond your health, there are other reasons why you might need to call off work, even when working remotely

Sick kids home from school? An aging parent needs a ride to the doctor’s office? Rather than try and juggle conference calls with doses of Tylenol, take time off and snuggle up with a favorite story. They’ll feel better, and you’ll feel less stressed by not juggling. 

Remember, sick days are there for you to recharge when needed. Benefits attract you to the company, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about using them, regardless of where you do your work. 

Take Time for Special Events

Taking work on the go with you is one of the most valued aspects of working remotely. I know a mom who spent an entire soccer season working from the bleachers during practices. A traditional 9-to-5 would have meant that soccer season couldn’t have happened. Remote work for the win!

But when you have a special event, take time off and be present. Your kids’ award ceremony? Your sister’s birthday brunch? Maybe that only warrants a half-day…unless you’re overdue for some sibling time. Then it’s shopping and brunch for a full day of fun.

Schedule it as a personal morning rather than checking emails on your phone every few minutes during the ceremony. Take your sister out for her birthday and put yourself out of the office. Then really be out of the office. Delight in taking time for personal relationships.

Weekends and Vacations Are Off-limits

Endless technology helps us stay connected long-distance. Chances are, if you look for it, work will find you on your weekend, or even on vacation in Aruba. So don’t look for it.

It’s up to you to set a boundary. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few, your boss is unlikely to chastise you for working on the weekends. Do you know why? They are probably off for the weekend and don’t even realize you’re working.

Set Your Schedule

With that in mind, it’s up to you to manage your schedule. An unfortunate truth is that work will take as much of your life as you allow it to. 

Flexible schedules are one of the best things that happened to work. However, if you end up working on the weekends, coworkers are likely to assume that you left early one day and are simply making up hours.

Be clear and communicate your schedule. If your team utilizes Slack or other communication tools, show yourself as “in,” and ensure everyone knows when you are working. 

Be present and responsive when you’re working, and then stop responding at quitting time. Just like in an office, coworkers should respect personal time, but you need to make it apparent when that is. 

2. Setting Boundaries With Family and Friends

Sometimes the boundary that we need to create is not with our employer but rather with our loved ones or the nosy neighbor next door. 

Being home throughout the day, they may perceive your schedule as more fluid than in a traditional role. Create guidelines, and don’t feel bad about prioritizing work during work hours.

Be Present

Rather than being in a state of constant distraction, be present with one role at a time. Truly clock out and focus on your relationships when it’s personal time. 

Loved ones are less likely to object to you focusing on work if they understand when they get your attention back. Put away the phone and play a game, or find other ways to spend quality time together.

Create Workspace Boundaries

Work together as a team to create workspace boundaries and systems for your family. Discuss ahead of time that your work is essential despite the nontraditional setting.

If you need to put your head down and focus, ensure everyone knows when they can’t interrupt. Reinforce this with a visual cue, such as a closed door, or a bold “STOP” sign.

Depending on the age of your children, it may be unrealistic for them to understand your entire schedule. Pre-planning for success is up to you.

Younger kids might do well with unique toys that only come out during must-do-work times. Subscription boxes are a relatively inexpensive way to get something new each month to hold their interest. 

For older children and other adults, something as simple as posting your schedule on the door helps them know when they can stop by for a chat. 

Be Intentional With Your Schedule

Increasingly common, multiple remote workers in the same home can mean a unique scheduling need. If you’re both caregivers, create a schedule together so that there are no dueling conference calls.

Unavoidable overlaps? Call in a sitter, or put an SOS out to grandma. 

Without children in the home, sharing space still requires communication and a transparent schedule. Perhaps your internet connection won’t support multiple Zoom meetings at the same time. Maybe your roommate has a mini-karaoke convention every Thursday.

Plan together for dedicated work time. Pre-planning ensures everyone can be supportive. 

3. Setting Boundaries With Yourself

Most overlooked but essential boundaries? The ones you set with yourself. 

Stay Focused

Staying focused while working from home is about 20 times harder than in a traditional office. 

Have you ever been researching for work, and before you know it, you’re 25 minutes into learning how to freeze a homemade pie? Strawberry rhubarb, anyone? 

Oh, and while you’re at it, Tom Hanks tells us what his three favorite movies to film were. (Really…Castaway? It seems like it would have been so grueling.)

Unless you work for a fun pop culture site, the chances are that you just wasted 25 minutes of your work time. Hold yourself accountable for your working time budget. If you don’t actually work during work hours, you have to make that up later. And that will eat into your personal time budget. 

Throw in a load of laundry and start dinner during a 15-minute break. Terrific! Just don’t let your 15-minute break turn into an unscheduled hour. Set timers, and be intentional with your schedule.

Get Dressed

Sure, you could work in your jammies. But having a tangible transition into work mode will help put your mindset in the right place. 

Remote work means you can save money on your official office attire. That doesn’t mean never having to get dressed though. 

Retaining a routine of working attire vs day-off loungewear ensures you are mentally checking in and out of work mode. It also means you don’t go to pick up your kids from school looking like you just rolled out of bed. That’s a win on several levels.

Set Boundaries to Avoid Burnout

Establishing boundaries with your work-life is always essential. In a remote role, it simply requires a little more pre-planning and intentional communication. 

For more advice on working remotely, check out our remote worker Q&A. Or, start your search for a remote job today!

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By Kimberli Lowe-MacAuley | February 21, 2022 | Categories: Work Remotely


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