Many remote workers cite “flexibility” as one of the biggest benefits to working from home, even when their company doesn’t work flexible hours. Yet remote workers also report working more hours at home than when they were in the office.
“The pandemic-driven shift to remote work has eroded work-life boundaries and caused an epidemic of burnout,” Zahira Jaser and Thomas Roulet write in “How Hyperflexibility Can Benefit — or Burn Out — Your Team.” “If we can work everywhere and at any time, there is nowhere we can be safe from work.
Remote work gives us freedom, but we haven’t been taught how to manage it — and when we don’t, it can be hard to know when to start and stop and how to enforce boundaries when you’re actually working and when you’re not. Here are some practical calendar hacks to help you start setting and managing those boundaries.
1. Figure Out What Hours Work for You and Schedule Working Blocks.
Just like some people are up and at ‘em at 6 a.m. and others thrive at 10 p.m., figure out what working hours work for you — and when you’re best optimized to do certain tasks.
For example, you might learn that you’re best at creative work right when you log on, and then you experience some fatigue in the mid-afternoon. If so, you might want to adjust your tasks accordingly to start with ideation and creation, and more administrative or analytical tasks later in the day. This not only works with your internal schedule but helps with productivity and efficiency, too.
Once you know what working hours work for your task, use your calendar to block off time to accomplish 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’re able to focus and complete your work.
2. Block Off Working Hours.
Once you know what hours work for you, block off your working hours in your calendar. This helps set the boundary that you won’t be logging on before 8 a.m., for example, or checking your email after 5 p.m. If your working hours change depending on external appointments or projects, that’s okay; adjust your calendar accordingly when the time comes. The most important part of this exercise is blocking 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 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. eastern” or something along those lines,” an anonymous Fairygodboss member recommended on the feed. “You can also put a daily Out of Office message up when you ‘leave’ for the day, with a friendly message stating your office hours and advising that you'll respond within 24 (or 48, etc.) hours.”
Adding these extra messages can help signal to external clients when you’re available and set expectations about when you’ll respond.
3. Block off Time To Rest and Re-group.
“For humans, concentrating on work for every minute of an eight-hour day is ‘impossible,’” says 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-hour days, or even more. The key to getting through them without overworking or burning ourselves out is having proper time to rest and regroup between tasks.
Use your calendar to set breaks before you take them, whether that’s a lunch break or a walk break. Keep yourself accountable to taking these breaks by making them something you need to get away from your desk from. Maybe it’s making a special lunch and calling a friend while you eat, or planning on picking up a coffee during that 30-minute mid-morning break.
Tools like Reclaim will even automatically schedule de-compress time in between meetings, and automatically updates as new meetings are added to your schedule.
4. Give Yourself Something Outside of Work To Look Forward to When the Day Is Done — And Add It to Your Calendar.
“Schedule personal activities and have several go-to hobbies that you enjoy so you’ll 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 a hike after work or a puzzle project, you may find it easier to slip back to work unnecessarily.”
While you don’t need to add “puzzle time” as an event in your calendar, blocking off time in your calendar that your coworkers can’t book over is important — and having something to look forward to will make you more motivated to actually go do that activity once the workday is done.
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