When it comes to working remotely, what looks like increased freedom can often be quite the opposite. Our friends at Fairygodboss are experts on this topic, considering how many career-minded employers and job seekers they work with. We like their grip on how to achieve work-life balance by setting limits using only your calendar! We’ll let them take care of it.
Many remote workers cite “flexibility” as one of the biggest perks of working from home, even when their company doesn’t have flexible hours. However, teleworkers too report working more hours at home than when they were in the office.
“The pandemic-induced shift to remote working has eroded the boundaries between work and private life and caused an epidemic of burnout,” write Zahira Jaser and Thomas Roulet in How hyperflexibility can benefit – or exhaust – your team. “If we can work everywhere and at any time, there is nowhere where we can be free from work.
Remote work gives us freedom, but we haven’t been taught how to manage it – and when it’s not, it can be hard to know when to start and stop and how to enforce boundaries when you actually work and when you’re not. Here are some handy calendar hacks to help you get started setting and managing those limits.
1. Determine working hours for you and schedule blocks of work.
Just as some people get up at 6 a.m. and others thrive at 10 p.m., figure out what work hours are right for you and when you’re best optimized to perform certain tasks.
For example, you might learn that you’re the best at creative work as soon as you log on, then feel some fatigue in the middle of the afternoon. If so, you may want to adjust your tasks accordingly to start with ideation and creation, and more administrative or analytical tasks later in the day. It not only works with your internal schedule, but also helps with productivity and efficiency.
Once you know what working hours work for your task, use your calendar to set aside time to complete those tasks, attaching any relevant documentation or notes to your meeting event. Start by overestimating how long these tasks will take you, then adjust as you learn how long you are able to concentrate and complete your work.
2. Block working hours.
Once you know what hours work for you, block your working hours into your calendar. This sets the limit to which you won’t log in before 8am, for example, or check your email after 5pm. If your working hours change due to appointments or external projects, that’s okay; adjust your schedule accordingly when the time comes. The most important part of this exercise is blocking out the hours so your team knows when you’re available and when you’re not.
“Consider putting in your email signature line and/or voicemail “My office hours are 8am to 5pm EST” or something along those lines”, an anonymous Fairygodboss member recommended on food. “You can also display a daily away message when you’re ‘leaving’ for the day, with a friendly message showing your office hours and letting you know you’ll respond within 24 (or 48, etc.) hours.”
Adding these additional messages can help signal to external customers when you’re available and set expectations for when you’ll respond.
3. Schedule time to rest and regroup.
“For humans, concentrating on work for every minute of an eight-hour day is ‘impossible'” said Malissa Clark, a psychologist at the University of Georgia whose research focuses on employee well-being and workaholism.
Yet many of us are expected to work eight hours a day or more. The key to overcoming them without overworking or exhausting yourself is having time to rest and regroup between tasks.
Use your calendar to set breaks before you take them, whether it’s a lunch break or a walk break. Hold yourself accountable for taking those breaks by making them something you need to get away from your desk. Maybe it’s packing a special lunch and calling a friend while you eat, or planning to grab a coffee during that 30-minute mid-morning break.
tools like Retrieve will even automatically schedule decompression time between meetings and automatically update as new meetings are added to your calendar.
4. Give yourself something outside of work to look forward to when the day is done – and add it to your calendar.
“Plan personal activities and have several hobbies that you enjoy so you have something specific to do with your personal time,” says Brie Weiler Reynolds, career development manager and coach at Flexjobs and Remote.co. “If you don’t have anything planned, like an after-work hike or a puzzle project, it may be easier for you to return to work unnecessarily.
While you don’t need to add “puzzle time” as an event in your calendar, it’s important to block out time in your calendar that your colleagues can’t book – and have something to look forward to. will make you more motivated to actually go and do this activity once the workday is over.