Remote workers share how they manage their work-life balance

4 min read
Kristin Hillery
  •  Jul 22, 2016
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When your office is just steps away from your bedroom—or, in many cases, is your bedroom—it’s entirely possible to go several days without “clocking out.” That’s a recipe for stress, burnout, and major side-eye from your dog.

So this week, we asked remote workers in the InVision community what they do to keep their jobs from taking over their homes.

“Part of my morning routine involves getting dressed as if I were going into an office. This helps me to put myself into a work mindset and it’s always helpful whenever a short-notice on-site client meeting pops up.

“In the morning, get dressed as if you were going into an office.”

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During lunch, I try to eat somewhere that isn’t my work area. In the evening, once my end of day followup emails go out, I’ll take a quick walk outside then come back and change into my lounge attire. This helps me put my mind into either work mode or home mode. Over the years I’ve learned that this is vital in respecting not only yourself but also your creativity—especially if you’re a parent.”

–David Yarde, Partner at Sevenality

“Sign up for a class or schedule something with friends so that your workday has to end.”

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“I try to keep the same hours as if I were working with colleagues in an office. I force myself into this schedule by signing up for exercise classes right after work or scheduling something with friends. Scheduling activities I enjoy right after work helps me maintain a normal schedule and not let the workday drag on into the late evening.”

–Bridget Cohen, Design Manager, UX and UI at Advanced Information Management, Inc.

Mariano’s current home office.

“I needed a way to keep me on track to do what I really wanted to do. The single most important thing for solving this was accountability. I trust a 2-sided system:

  1. Time tracking: Everything I do in my life, both professional and personal activities, I consider a ‘project.’ I use Yast to log the hours I spend doing each project.
  2. Time segmenting: The Pomodoro Technique pushed my focus and attention to new highs. It goes like this: Take 25 (timed) minutes to work with no distractions.
    Then, use 5 (timed) minutes to relax. When you finish 4 pomodoros, take a 20-minute break.

To make the system work: I start a countdown timer first, and then the corresponding Yast project stopwatch.”

Mariano Goren, UX Design Strategist and author of 11 Questions to Start a UX Project

Have a routine and keep consistent ‘office hours.’Twitter Logo When people commute to work, the commute itself can help transition them into the workday. When you work remote and your office is in the next room, it can help to have activities that transition you into and out of the workday. For me that means in the morning I have breakfast and grab coffee before heading into my home office.

“Have activities that transition you into and out of your workday.”

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To help transition out of work mode at the end of the day, I turn off my work computer and close the door to my home office. Having an end to the workday is keyTwitter Logo, because as a remote employee it can be tempting to jump on the computer ‘just for a second’ when you think of something work-related (regardless of the time of day). That’s one way to burn out fast. By having consistent ‘office hours,’ your team knows when you’ll be online and you have separation between work and personal time.”

–Kate Harvey, Content and Search Marketing Manager at Chargify

“Set up a room in your home that’s just for work.”

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“I force myself to stay on a schedule. I have coffee and lunch at the same time every day—never at at my desk. And I start working at the same time every day.

I wear a Xiaomi MiBand bracelet that I’ve configured to vibrate when I haven’t walked at least 25 steps in the last hour.

It’s a great idea to have a dedicated room for work so you can physically separate your home from your job.Twitter Logo

–David Lázaro, Software Engineer

Stephanie at last year’s TeamSnap company retreat in Colorado. Photo by Frank Watervoort.

One of the perils of working from home is the temptation to never clock out.Twitter Logo I might walk away from my desk at 5pm, but I’m tempted to continue checking my email throughout the evening or respond to every Slack notification, no matter how not time sensitive it is. Recently, I turned Slack and email syncing off on my phone. That’s not to say I’ll never check my email after-hours again, but the temptation to check it constantly is lifted from me. It’s this work-from-homer’s version of clocking out at the end of the day.”

–Stephanie Gonzalez, Senior Marketing Manager at TeamSnap

“It’s important to me to get everything pressing finished before my workday is over so I can spend time with my family. I often get back online later in the evening to plan the next day since I’m pretty consistent about my cut-off time.

To help me focus for long periods, I work in a quiet office with natural light. Taking breaks outdoors and working out helps freshen my mind. I also work with my team in our office weekly.

My iPhone is frequently set to do not disturb, so that I can control when to reply to pressing calls or messages.”

–Danelle Bailey, Senior UX Designer at Blackboard

Early morning snowboarding before work.

“Work-life balance is all about making the space you need to be productive and still enjoy your life. For me it’s scheduling a trail run or mountain bike ride into my calendar in the afternoons when I know the weather looks good and I want to clear my head. Or in the winter, getting up early to catch a backcountry powder run before the day begins. Getting my heart rate up before diving into strategy brainstorming or content production brings me to the table fresh with ideas and fulfills my life as well.

“Nobody has ever died of a marketing emergency.”

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I try to remember that nobody has ever died of a marketing emergencyTwitter Logo (a good piece of advice I got from one of my former bosses). I do my best work when I pay attention to my life needs and prioritize them hand-in-hand with my workload.”

–Rachel Reich, Marketing Coordinator at Authentic Form & Function

“My partner and I are both remote workers. At first, it was a challenge separating work from everyday life, but with time we found our rhythm. What has helped most is having consistent work hours. We typically go into work mode at 9am and stop working around 5:30pm. We kick off work mode by making a pot of coffee (we take turns), and as soon as we have a mug in our hands, we head for our desks.

“Remote workers should keep consistent work hours.”

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I had to learn to accept the fact that things can wait until tomorrow.Twitter Logo With a team in locations all over the world like Zapier’s, there are always people working, so it’s tempting to check Slack and stay caught up. When I was commuting to a physical office in downtown Chicago, I’d have a natural cut-off every day. Around 5 or 5:30pm I’d pack up, leave my desk, say my goodbyes, and make my way home. I try to replicate that same idea of a cut-off at home, and I find it helps a lot.

When you spend so much of your time in one space, that space should make you feel good.Twitter Logo My desk is by a window, and I try to keep as few things on my desk as possible. It’s the simple things.”

Stephanie Briones, Product Designer at Zapier

“Coffee o’clock happens at my house every day around 1pm. It’s a ritual that’s yielded complex, rich, and smooth (see what I did there?) benefits for my wife and me. Over coffee, she and I check in about how our days are going. We might even go over our budget (we really need to do that again) or just talk about life.”

Jason Ogle, Host of the User Defenders podcast

“What do you do when your workspace is a one-second commute from your bedroom? Change your definition of ‘commute.’

“People who work from home need some sort of transition from home to work and back.”

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That’s exactly what I did. Most workers have some amount of time on the way to work to mentally prepare for the day. It’s an important transition from home to work—and vice-versa later—so in order to give myself that same opportunity to “leave” home and get to work, I started writing in a journal every morning to scribe out the morning noise in my mind. So once I actually sit down at my desk and start working, I have a clearer perspective.”

–Ankur Patel, Sales Engineer, Keen IO

Join the conversation

How do you keep your work and home from merging into one sad blob? Tell us on Twitter: @InVisionApp.

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