Setting Boundaries for Permanent Remote Working

As many companies begin implementing permanent ‘work from home’ policies, or more flexible working arrangements, it is time to reflect on your arrangement with your company and agree some boundaries for your new arrangement. It is after all, a change to your working conditions and contract. It is essential to your mental and physical health that you create boundaries to prevent burn out and apathy towards your work. After a solid 15 months of working from home, most people have come to realise that it is not sustainable in its current format.

 

Why do I need remote working boundaries?

Extra-long hours, filling in for furloughed team members, rotating furlough days, unused holidays, erratic childcare, sharing workspace with your family or housemates, the lack of privacy when dealing with confidential information, the loneliness, home schooling, new puppies, bereavements, separation from friends and family, boredom, food and other supply shortages, uncertain futures and of course, the virus itself all added to the hugely stressful situations many found themselves in. You’d be easily forgiven for getting yourself caught out by all of the above and more even during the pandemic.

 

 
Now that the end finally seems to be in sight, but the home working is not, you need to apply boundaries to your remote working solution going forward otherwise the days will continue to blur into one and leave you feeling exhausted and jaded.

 

 
During a global crisis, it is typical to expect all hands-on-deck and employees to dig deep to help the company to survive, but survive it has and it is now time for you to consider your wellbeing and how to make the new reality work for both you and your company.

 

 
Remote working is often touted purely as a benefit to the employees; however, it actually costs the company less in desk space, corporate floor space and insurances (and even parking, teas, shuttle buses, coffees and lunches in some offices) than having you in the office would. The reality is remote working is often a benefit to both parties, if expectations are set early and adhered to.

 

What are some examples of remote working boundaries and how do I set them?

Discuss your needs with your housemates or family and to your line manager, once you have your work hours confirmed, you
 can ask your family to help you stick to them by having a set start and finish time that is enforced within the household. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work overtime sometimes, but a daily overtime requirement is poor leadership and task management.

  • Ask for the extra equipment that you need, be it a chair to prevent backache or an extra monitor or a lockbox to store confidential customer or company data in your home, or even a privacy filter for your screen to ensure on screen data is kept safe.
  • Declutter your work environment and ensure that work stays in your workspace and does not migrate to other parts of your home, equally don’t complete non-work-related activities in your workspace.
  • MOVE. Take some exercise daily by working out at home, going to the gym or going for a walk in the morning or at lunchtime. Get outside to access the natural Vitamin D available from the sun. Aim for 15,000 steps (10km)per day by walking on the spot during conference calls (turn your video off where allowed).
  • Fake a commute – do NOT just get up and start working, your brain needs to be able to separate your home life from your work life and if this is all happening in the same room it can cause mental health problems. Walk to the station and back if you have to, to give your brain the break it needs from being in the same surroundings all day, every day.
  • Don’t be afraid of turning your video off sometimes, when people phone you when you’re in the office they don’t have access to you on video so don’t feel every call needs to be by video call.
  • Look after yourself and your wellbeing by planning your meals in advance. This removes the question of what to have for lunch that can lead to grabbing and unhealthy option because it’s quick.
  • Take breaks, including lunch. Take a break from your screen to relax your eyes and stretch. Do NOT eat at your desk – I know, I know, I have been guilty of this too, but I am always more productive when I practise mindful eating and take a break from screens at lunch time.
  • Drink more water. Yes,you might have to go to the toilet more often, but on the bright side, it will add to your daily step tally and it’s good for flushing toxins out of your body.
  • Make time for yourself, whether that’s 20 minutes of reading a day, meditation or just listening to a podcast, block the time out on your calendar and give yourself and your brain a rest from the demands of home and work. It is a good way to recharge and process the events of the day.
  • Be flexible but keep your calendar up to date and set communications boundaries with your team so they know when you’re available.
  • Don’t work on your off days!

 

Conclusion

Remote working can be a hugely positive situation for all concerned, provided you do not let work creep so far into your home life that it becomes too difficult to distinguish between home and work life. Make sure you stay in contact with your friends and associates and keep the social aspects of your life alive. Try not to isolate yourself from social events in town/ the city just because you are working from home. And work with your management and team to ensure you are not left out of team dynamics. And seriously, DO NOT WORK ON YOUR OFF DAYS!

 

What do you think?

Is ‘work from home’ the new normal for you? What’s different? How do you feel about remote working? What boundaries have you implemented? Do you need help setting boundaries? Get in touch to see if coaching can help you.

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