Establishing a clear end-of-the-day routine can help you cut your stress and boost your productivity and happiness. Previously, we addressed several steps you should take to close things out on a high note. Those steps can apply no matter where you’re working; however, remote workers have a unique set of challenges as well. These additional steps can help draw a clear distinction between your work-at-home time and your be-at-home time.
One of the perks of working remotely can be the flexibility to meet your work obligations on a non-traditional schedule. While it’s okay to knock out a report in the wee hours of the morning from time to time or to edit your next presentation in the evening, don’t make a habit of it. Try to set work hours and stick with them. Not only that, but communicate that schedule to those you work with. Do you work from 9am to 5pm? Are you available from 8 am to 3pm? Maybe you’re working non-traditional office hours and your day begins at 4pm and ends at 8. Whatever it is, define it and make it your norm. Just because you can see your workspace from your dining room table doesn’t mean it should be open for business 24/7.
Dedicate a workspace
Speaking of workspace, have one. Whether it’s a desk tucked in a nook in your sunroom or a spare bedroom converted to an office, have a dedicated work space. When you’re not working, don’t be in the space. That also means you need to train yourself to leave your work space when you’d leave the building if you worked in an out-of-home office. Would you make it a habit of rolling into your office at 6am and staying until 9pm? Probably not. Treat your ‘home office’ the same. Get up and leave that desk when your work day is over. This isn’t just good practice for the end of your work day either. If you’d leave your desk for lunch, meetings and to catch up at the watercooler, take those breaks in your work-at-home day too.
Don’t blur the lines
You’ve pulled up a recipe on your laptop that is now perched on your kitchen counter while you make dinner. As you’re dicing onions and mincing garlic, you hear the familiar jingle notifying you an email has hit your work inbox. Leave it be. Tech can create the sensation that we’re always reachable and on-call. This can be especially true for those of us who work remotely. You may think a quick check of your email is a non-issue, but that email could lead to bigger things. You type up a response. You open a project up to make an edit, or to gather information to answer a question. The next thing you know, an hour’s gone by and you’re knee-deep in work again. Remember step #1: define your work hours and make every effort to stick with them.
Create a post-work routine
You’ve closed out your work day routine with the six steps to go out on a high note. When you’re working at home, that’s half the battle. There’s no ride home to create a line of demarcation between your professional and personal lives. You need to create a new routine to signal that this is the start of your “be-at-home” time. Turn off the laptop. Turn the ringer off the work phone if you’ve got a dedicated line. Turn the lights off on your work space. Slip on your work-out clothes and go for a walk or jog. Curl up on the couch for a little mindless TV or a good book. Dedicate a block of time for family activity. Start dinner. Make it part of a regular routine that signals “This is now me time, not work time.”
Your commute has been reduced to the minutes it takes you to walk from one room to the next. If your past work days included an hour commute each way, this isn’t to be added to your work-at-home tally of time. Just because you’ve freed up the time you used to sit in traffic or on the train, doesn’t mean you owe it to the tasks on your to-do list. That’s your time. Claim it.
Enjoy your flexibility
For many, the inherent flexibility of working at home is its biggest perk. The ability to re-arrange your work time to spend an afternoon at the beach with your favorite people is part of the allure. Being able to coordinate with the individual coming out to repair your furnace without giving up work time is also an advantage. Go ahead and embrace it! You can change your work hours for a day or two here and there. Just clearly communicate that change to those you work with. Give folks a heads up, “I’m going to kick my day off early today. I’ll be at the desk by 7 but I won’t be reachable after 1pm. Let’s touch base around noon to make sure there’s nothing that needs my attention before I sign-off.” When the designated time comes around, sign-off. Mean it. You put your hours in. You communicated it. Now sign-off and enjoy yourself.