How to Maintain a Healthy Telecommuting Work-Life Balance

June 2, 2016
Archived, Productivity

Is your telecommuting work-life balance as good as it could be? Telecommuting should eliminate the commute to work, improve productivity, and create more time to focus on things other than work. Without structure the reality is that work-life balance can get out of whack.

More people telecommute now than ever before.

According to a Gallup report, 37% of people in the US telecommute.

That’s a fair distance from the 9% that were telecommuting in 1995. Unsurprising, considering how much easier telecommuting now is.

There are tons of ways to be be more effective working from home. And a wealth of advice available from those who are already working remotely.

Dig deeper into the statistics, and we find some surprising insights.

It turns out that most telecommuters telecommute two days per month, and only 46% are doing it during the workday.

That means 54% of telecommuters are regularly working from home on the weekend.

And that’s worrying. Because working on weekends is not necessarily as good an idea as it seems.

Weekend work, along with many other work habits, can seriously impact our work-life balance.

And a poor work-life balance can have all kinds of knock-on effects to our happiness, growth, and sense of well-being.

Not to mention a huge influence over our satisfaction with our work.

I’d like to share the tips I’ve picked up to make for a healthier telecommuting work-life balance.

#1 – Seriously, Have Clear Hours of Work

Must have clear hours of work for telecommuting work-life balance

Can you put a price on the value of family and home life?

Implicitly we know how important it is to have a healthy and happy home life. For our sense of personal growth, development and achievement.

And not just for ourselves – families benefit too.

We now work more hours than ever. Sadly, a lot of this time is on the weekends. Family life often suffers as a result.

Americans are working on the weekends and on holidays 34% more than they were just a decade ago.

In fact, the average time we put in on those days is a whopping 6 hours!

Wow, 6 hours on the weekend…time that could have been spent with family. Instead you’ve got your head buried in work.

Working on weekends cannot become the norm. Or at least must not impact on your sense of home life.

Keep to a structured working day

One way to overcome the lure of working weekends is through a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

When I first began telecommuting, I would wake up and be at my desk within 15 minutes. Checking email. Diving into the day’s work.

I would skip lunch entirely, or eat at my desk.

And the day would only really end when my head returned to the pillow to sleep that night. Meaning the working day stretched across many more hours than your average office-work day.

Sound familiar? Does it cause friction and stress at home as everyone else is forced to accommodate your lack of schedule?

Create and stick to a structured workday and you’ll be as amazed as I was about the effect it has on your work-life balance.

Steps to define and stick to telecommute working hours

There are a couple of tactics which I have found to be particularly effective.

Communicate with the team. Clearly communicate with your team when you will be working – specify the times of the day on days of the week.

Communicate with your family. Make a clear workday schedule for your family to understand when to consider you ‘at work’, even if you happen to be around the house.

Arrange after-work commitments. If, like me, you have trouble saying no to an extra hour or two of work at the end of the day, having the pressure of commitments forces your hand.

Whether it’s meeting up with someone for a social call, or joining up with a sports training session. Commitments force our hand when it comes to finishing the day’s work on time.

#2 – Have Rules in Place for When Work Crops Up

Telecommuting work-life balance needs clear rules

Do you ever get a work phone call or email right in the middle of dinner?

Feel the urge to grab that phone and get to it?

Friends and family won’t thank you for it if you do.

Just like having clear hours of work to separate home and work life, so too do we need clear rules for those moments when work intrudes upon family time.

Whether it’s while eating dinner, watching a movie, or getting the kids ready for bed, a telecommuting lifestyle means work can crop up at any time.

It’s tempting to give in and see to it, and it’s your job not to give in to those urges.

Family Meetings to set Rules

Teleworking rules need to take into account those around you. For your own feeling of work-life balance and for theirs.

Use family meetings – or whatever format works best for your family –  to understand all the expectations and points of view.

From this knowledge you can then begin to determine what the best solution could be for needing to deal with unexpected work as it crops up.

Once you’ve agreed on the rules – stick to them!

#3 Enjoy the ‘Life’ part of Work-Life

Telecommuting work-life balance requires time for family

When we talk about any kind of work-life balance, we’re making the implication that the ‘life’ part needs to balance out the ‘work’ part.

Telecommuters, and everyone else for that matter, work more hours per week on average than ever.

Whereas non-teleworkers have the luxury of leaving work at the desk when heading out of the office for the weekend, or going on vacation, teleworkers often have a more difficult time switching off.

To balance out the ‘life’ part, we must make a concerted effort to separate our home life from work.

With structured work hours, and rules in place to deal with work that crops up – life outside of teleworking can begin.

Weekends open up, safe in the knowledge that everything is under control.

And there are many ways we can prepare to take a stress-free vacation.

By focusing on lifting the importance of ‘life’, it becomes easier to see what changes need to be made to the way we work.

Key Takeaways

Telecommuting is a great way to do what you love, and from the place you love to work.

Despite that, the telecommuting lifestyle can also lead to problems with our work-life balance, if we concentrate too much on the ‘work’ and too little on the ‘life’.

It’s vitally important, therefore, that you have:

  • set working hours
  • clear communication
  • rules in place for unexpected work
  • attitude to make the most of ‘life’

What are your tips for a better telecommuting work-life balance? Leave a comment below!

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