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A few years ago, it was almost impossible to land a job working from home. But, as a result of social distancing guidelines in response to COVID-19, more people are working remotely than ever before. While there are many perks to this arrangement, like the ability to stay at home with our families and save money on gas, there is also a potential dark side in the form of workaholism.
The Internet is always on. But that doesn’t mean you have to be.
When we don’t have to worry about a commute or office lights turning off at the end of the day, it is easier to work longer hours, but that is not always a good thing. Let’s talk about setting boundaries as a remote worker.
To understand what is at risk, you need to realize that there is a difference between occasionally working long hours and making it a habit to always work later than necessary. If you find that you are joining your family later now than you were when you had a commute, then you may have an issue.
On top of that, if you are constantly thinking about work even when you are not behind your desk, then you may have some of the traits that can lead to becoming a workaholic. If you are noticing this trend in your life, know that you are not alone, as many remote workers find that they are at their desks 10% longer than they were in the physical office. Even with that being the case, it is important not to let the situation get out of hand.
While you may just see it as getting more done, becoming a workaholic can negatively impact your mental health because doing so creates an increased chance of anxiety and can lead to an obsession with work and achieving success. Working too much can result in a downward spiral that can be hard to escape. Needless to say, you need to start setting boundaries so you can be happier and healthier overall.
To preserve and strengthen your mental health and to ensure that you get adequate time with your family, you need to instill a proper work/life balance by setting boundaries where you clearly define when you work and when you step away. You should literally set a time where your workday is done and plan your schedule accordingly, so you never go past that time unless you are working on a special project.
Make sure that you come to an agreement with your management about what time you will be starting and leaving each day so they don’t try contacting you when you should be resting. Those with workaholic tendencies may leave their desk but still check in periodically to review their email or other missed messages. Avoid this temptation by shutting down your computer at the end of your day and keeping your work phone on your desk.
It is also important to avoid late-night work marathons and instead ensure that you get your seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Rest is necessary to heal your body and immune system after a day of activity so you don’t get sick. Plus, sleep helps to refresh your brain so you can be more productive at work the next day and less likely to make mistakes.
While having a set schedule is important, it is also essential that you allow yourself to take breaks during the day. Typically, your job will allow at least two breaks and a lunch, so take advantage. During these rest periods, make it a point to engage in healthy activities, like taking a walk, having a healthy meal, or enjoying a short nap.
In addition to allowing your body and mind a chance to refresh, breaks will also keep you away from your computer screen. Numerous studies have been conducted over the years about the health issues associated with looking at screens all day. In addition to the strain it puts on our eyes, constant screen time can also lead to moderate to severe depression because it makes us feel disconnected from the world.
To avoid these issues, set time restrictions for how long you work and stare at screens. In addition to ending work at the same time every day, avoid going downstairs to immediately watch TV or pursue social media. Instead, create a plan of how long in the day you allow yourself to look at any type of screen and use the other time to go outside and take a walk or read a book instead.
In the end, you must set boundaries as a remote employee. Yes, work is important, but so is actually living your life. Create a plan now and stick to it. Your family will thank you.
Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, environmental protection, and more. In her off time you can find her in the mountains with her two dogs. You can follow her work on Contently, or reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @indianalee3