It's 4:52pm. Your work chat has 8 unread messages. There's 16 emails that are waiting. And all you want to do is sign off so you can walk the dog, get started on dinner--and your evening. Thank goodness it's... only Monday?
As more and more of us start working remote, we can begin to lose those boundaries around our time that we used to have. Instead of the visual cue that it's the end of the day when you leave the office, your name is always listed on the sidebar of your work chat app--and it's hard to be sure if you're around or not, since even with an inactive status you might still reply. Here's a few tips for actions you can do today to set these boundaries.
Use emoji as status indicators
If the chat application you're using at your work supports it, it can be helpful to use emoji as status indicators so folks know if you're currently deeply focused in work, available for chat, in a meeting, or out for the day. Some ideas:
- ☕ / 🍵 Getting a cup of coffee or tea to drink, be back in a bit.
- 🔕 Do not disturb
- 📅 In a meeting
- 📞 On a call
- 🧑💻 Coding / focusing
- 🍽️ Getting lunch / dinner
Make use of snoozed notifications
Snooze notifications for email or your work chat to reduce interruptions during the work day.
Turn on do not disturb in your work chat app and have it follow your preferred work schedule, including blocking out time for lunch. For example, I have my notifications set to the following schedule:
- Allow notifications on weekdays from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
- Mute notifications any other time outside of that window.
Make use of your work calendar
Using the concept of time blocking, in the calendar you use for your work, such as Outlook or Google, add in calendar events blocking out time for your needs. You can have time blocks for focus time, lunch, and before/after work hours to avoid the risk of having a meeting scheduled during those times. A tool like reclaimai could be really helpful here, too.
To help avoid opening up your work chat or email, if you have it installed on your phone, you can use of focus modes to remove distractions after work hours. Here's some great guides to get started:
Hulry also has a great guide on how they use focus modes to avoid distractions.
Chat with your manager
Finally, and likely the most important, it's important to set boundaries around your schedule. Discuss these boundaries during a 1:1 call to set these expectations with your manager. Be sure to bring up:
- Preferred working schedule (are you an early riser and prefer to be online at 7:30? Or do you like to sleep in and start closer to 10?)
- If you use emojis for status, share what these statuses mean--it could even become part of your team culture where everyone uses a shared set of statuses.
- Describe your calendar schedule, which helps set expectations around scheduling meetings and calls.
Managing the boundaries around work can make a huge difference in the quality of your work-life balance, and helping to prevent burnout. Making small changes, such as those listed above, can help set you on a path to finding more balance during your day. Once you try them out for a few weeks, take a step back and evaluate them. What is and isn't working for you? What can you adjust, remove, or add? Regularly reflect and adapt to find what works best for you.