I had just completed a long work trip in Europe and in an exhausted voice exclaimed to an acquaintance, “I need a vacation!” She quickly replied back, “What do you mean? You were just on vacation.” Believe it or not, she’s not the first person that has said this to me. Working remotely and living location independent have great perks and I travel to dreamy places. But achieving work-life balance as a remote worker can be more difficult than someone with a desk job.
I wouldn’t change my independent lifestyle but it doesn’t make one exempt from real life challenges. Consider a recent Monday I had while living and working from my RV (a.k.a. motorhome)…
6:00 a.m. Woke up, fed and walked the dog, got ready for the day.
6:45 a.m. Answered emails and worked on a business project. Ate some protein and drank caffeine.
8:00 a.m. Got the RV ready to drive from Charleston, SC to Jacksonville, FL.
8:30 a.m. Checked emails and social media business accounts.
9:00 a.m. Hooked up the car to the RV, did a thorough safety check, and started driving to Florida.
10:00 a.m. Stopped for gas and had to wait 20 minutes to get into a gas lane that my RV could fit into.
11:00 a.m. Was finally back on the road – it takes a while to fill a 50 gallon gas tank. It was hot outside and the sun was beating down on me through the windshield. When I went to turn on the AC, the knob broke. I sweat profusely all the way to Jacksonville.
12:30 p.m. Stopped for lunch, took the dog for a quick walk, and checked emails.
1:30 p.m. Continued to travel to Jacksonville.
5:30 p.m. After a couple bathroom stops and heavy traffic, I arrived in Jacksonville. I put my slide out on the RV and it broke. (For those unfamiliar with RVs, this problem meant I couldn’t drive it without being fixed.) Stress ensued. I spent the next hour on the phone with a mobile RV service to make arrangements for the costly repairs.
6:30 p.m. Ate something and let the dog out.
7:00-11:00 p.m. Worked.
Around 11:30 p.m. Fell into bed.
Now, I understand you may read this and think my long, tiring day was a problem of a privileged individual. I agree. But that’s not the point of this article. My point is that when you work remotely, work-life challenges are going to come your way just like they do in any career or lifestyle. Remote professionals may face different and unique challenges, but they still have an effect on one’s mind, body, and soul.
Work-Life Balance For Remote Professionals
Throughout your career, you’ve likely heard the phrase “work-life balance” countless times. How this plays out for a remote professional can look different, but the principal is the same. It’s vital to one’s health to find a work-life balance even when you have a dream job.
I was hesitant to write this article, because I can be guilty of too much work and little play. But I’m on a continuous journey and I think it’s important to share and learn together. Finding outlets and ways to decompress from work may seem really obvious when you’re traveling to exotic lands, but it’s sometimes easier said than done. Time, budget, or energy may factor into finding a balance.
Below are 4 things that can distort a remote professional’s work-life balance. Along with each, I’ve provided an action step toward finding balance in that area. Remember to adapt these action steps to fit who you are and what makes you happy.
1. Travel Fatigue. Many remote professionals live location independent lifestyles and love to travel. But travel can also add stress and unforeseen challenges to one’s daily life – e.g., flight delays, illness, theft, RV breakdowns, etc.
Plan for your travel days. If you have a full day of travel, don’t schedule work-related tasks on that day. This will likely make your travel days more tolerable and you’ll be able to handle unforeseen problems with less stress. For example, if I wouldn’t have tried to work on my travel day, outlined above, I would have had less stress when dealing with a broken AC knob and slide out. But by putting pressure on myself to fit work into my day, I ended up exhausted and had a harder time getting motivated the next day. Whereas, when I don’t work on a travel day I’m more relaxed and can more easily jump into a full day of work the day after.
2. Loneliness. Working remotely can sometimes lead to loneliness. Long days in front of a computer can take its toll. Be sure to check-in with yourself from time to time and see if you need more human interaction.
One way to help with loneliness is to purchase a co-working membership. This is a great way to meet other professionals and develop an additional social circle. There are co-working spaces all over the world. Simply do a Google search in your area to see what’s available. I was in Lisbon for a few days and checked out one of their co-working spaces – not only did it give me great wifi for the day, I was also able to meet some people and get helpful tips for things to do in the city. And if you’re not a millennial – neither am I! – 40+ remote professionals are connecting at co-working spaces too.
3. Always ON. When you work outside a regular 9-5, it can feel like you’re always “on”. Whether it’s checking emails on your phone during dinner or working into the evening, one can lose track of the line between work and personal time.
Bring balance to your work week by scheduling your work each day even though you’re not bound by a traditional office. You may also want to implement a timer – for example, if you plan to work 8 hours on Monday, set the timer on your phone to ensure you end on time. Once the timer goes off, have a plan to immediately jump into something that will get your mind off work (e.g., exercise, prepare a meal, go out with friends, etc.).
Always being “on” can cause stress to the mind, body, and soul. Consider practicing yoga daily, meditating, or engaging in mindfulness. These are things that you can do while traveling as well.
4. Physical Strain. Remote professionals are often in roles that require a lot of sitting. This can cause back pain, leg swelling, carpal tunnel, and other physical strains.
To keep yourself healthy while working remotely, schedule walks and stretches throughout the day. Also, be sure to look away from your computer every few minutes to prevent eye strain. Some studies recommend investing in a stand-up desk. The key is to move as much as possible each day.
Add plenty of movement into your travel days as well. This not only provides physical benefits but also mental benefits. When I’m on long flights, I make sure to get up every hour to stretch my legs and even a short walk down the aisle helps my circulation.
Which one of these affects your work-life balance the most? Grab a journal and number 1-3 on a page. Write down 3 action steps that you will take over the next week to bring a healthy balance back into this area of your life.
I invite you to check out the additional resources we offer for remote professionals, including an online community. Click here to learn more. I would also love to hear from you. What have you done that helps you maintain a work-life balance? Share in the comment section below.
Now…put your computer down and do something non-work related that feeds your mind, body, and soul!