Setting Boundaries When Working Remotely

Let me tell you I’ve historically been terrible at setting boundaries when working remotely which may make you think “Jack, how can you advise me to set boundaries if you can’t even do it yourself”. That’s because I’ve been there and bought the t-shirt. 

You know the drill, team members located around the world, 4, 5, 6 hours, and even longer differences between members of the same team make some late nights and early mornings inevitable. 

It doesn’t have to be the normal though and for the sake of your mental health, and your family you shouldn’t let it be. 

According to CNBC 69% of remote workers report either having burnout or symptoms of burnout. 

Working from home can make it harder to disconnect, after all you never truly leave work in the physical sense that you would if working from an office. 

What I’m Doing To Combat Separating Work Life From Home Life

Not Having Slack Installed on my Phone 

You’re out enjoying a day with your family and you get a message “There’s a bug in the new release”. However much you try and forget about it and continue your day the likelihood it’ll be on your mind until you can try and resolve it. 

To combat this, remove or in my case never install Slack on your phone. You don’t need to be reachable at all hours of the day, every day. 

Chances are someone else in the team can deal with what’s happening if it’s a true emergency but in reality I can count on one hand when in over 8 years of working remotely there’s been an all-hands on deck emergency. 99% of the time the “problem” can wait until you’re back at work and getting constant real-time updates doesn’t do your mental health any favours. 

Closing Work Tools at the end of the Work Day

It’s tempting isn’t it? Reach the end of the day and just keep internal company tools and message boards open just in case anything happens, or maybe you’re just nosey and want to know what’s going on at all hours of the day. 

Yet keeping all your work tools open is a sure-fire way of keeping your brain engaged in work mode, rather than relaxing and spending time with family mode. 

I’m now closing internal work tools at the end of the work day and you should too. Messages and work will be there in the morning when you return and if something is truly an emergency just make sure those that may need to reach you know how to. 

Let me be crystal clear though, those times when people reach out should be absolutely minimal regardless of your position in the company. If someone’s texting you everyday it’s time to look for a new job. 

Part of a Team not a Family 

It always gives me a bit of the ick when someone refers to their team members as family. While often coming from a good place it’s often a sign of a work environment that doesn’t know boundaries. 

You have a life out of work and that’s totally fine. You shouldn’t feel obliged to be friends with colleagues or get involved in every social activity they may or may not offer. If you want to, awesome! But if it feels forced that’s a red flag. 

Saying No

You might feel uneasy about saying no to your boss, but you can and should say no more often than you say yes. 

Saying yes to everything leaves you either overworking, under-delivering on quality or both. 

At first saying no isn’t easy, after all you’re being paid by this person shouldn’t you take on everything you can? 

Not at all. Saying no is more powerful than saying yes, focus on key deliverables that can have an impact rather than just saying yes, yes yes. 

If a request comes out of hours and isn’t urgent and you happen to see it and start panicking, remember it’ll be there tomorrow. If you are really worried just drop a message “I’ll handle this within the next 48 hours” for example. 

Don’t lock yourself down into specific time-frames and cause yourself stress and anxiety.

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