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, “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 has great perks, and I travel to dreamy places. But achieving a work-life balance as a remote worker can be more difficult than for someone with a traditional nine-to-five job.
I wouldn’t change my independent lifestyle, but it doesn’t exempt me from real-life challenges.
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 principle is the same. It’s vital to one’s health to find a work-life balance even when you have a dream job.
I hesitated 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.
Let’s look at four 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.
Many remote professionals live location-independent lifestyles and love to travel. But travel can also add stress and unforeseen challenges to daily life – e.g., flight delays, illness, theft, etc.
ACTION STEP: 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.
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.
ACTION STEP: 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, but 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! Remote professionals like me are connecting at co-working spaces too.
You’re Always On
When you work outside a regular 9-5, it can feel like you’re always “on.” Whether checking emails on your phone during dinner or working into the evening, one can lose track of the line between work and personal time.
ACTION STEP: 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 such as exercise, preparing a meal, or going out with friends.
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.
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.
ACTION STEP: 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 to your travel days as well. This provides not only 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 four things affects your work-life balance the most? I recommend grabbing a journal and number 1 to 3 on a page. Write down three action steps you’ll take over the next week to bring a healthy balance back into this area of your life.
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!