Creating an Effective Work-Life Balance

As the remote-work model becomes increasingly popular, it’s harder than ever to set healthy boundaries and establish a good work-life balance – and the same is true when you’re working on online classes.

By: Bailey Gerber & Jake Hreha

As the remote-work model becomes increasingly popular, it’s harder than ever to set healthy boundaries and establish a good work-life balance – and the same is true when you’re working on online classes. Whether you’re trying to fit in a load of laundry between work meetings or studying for an exam while you make dinner, it can be stressful to juggle it all. Setting boundaries is key to being productive, building healthy relationships, and doing exceptional work.

The importance of work life balance cannot be stated enough. Having a poor work life balance can hurt your career and your personal life. In order to maintain good mental health and enjoy our personal lives we need to separate work and personal time. While work life integration seems like a time saving hack it is more likely to impair our quality of work and life.

Here are some tips for creating an effective work-life balance by establishing wise boundaries:

Set clear hours of availability.

Before remote work became commonplace, it was easier to separate your work life from your personal life. You simply powered down your computer and headed home when your work was done. Today, especially if you’re working from home, it’s harder to draw a clear line. It’s 5:30 p.m., but you have a few emails to send or some projects to review – and before you know it, it’s 7:00 p.m. To remind yourself when it’s time to stop working or studying, set an alarm that notifies you when you need to call it a day.

If you make yourself available at all hours, your co-workers will get used to engaging with you whenever they need you. This can create unhealthy demands on your time. Establishing set times of accessibility (e.g., 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) shows your team that you care about your work, but it also allows you to protect your work-life balance.

(Pro Tip: When you set these boundaries, hold yourself accountable, too. Power down your laptop and leave it in your office, where you won’t be tempted to “just check something” after your day is done. Set clear work hours to set yourself up for success.)

Make time for uninterrupted work.

One of the greatest barriers to setting boundaries is distractions that keep you from being productive. If you have something specific you want to accomplish before your day ends, you’ll feel like you can’t stop working until it’s finished – even if that means working past your set end time.

To eliminate distractions, block out segments of your calendar for uninterrupted work time. When working from home it's easy to let work life takeover home life, but the same is true for home life interrupting work life. To achieve work life balance it's important to commit your working hours to working. This helps you feel better about leaving your work alone at the end of the day when it's time for life outside of work. Our physical and mental health is dependent on us feeling productive and fulfilled in both our work and personal life.

If you typically engage with colleagues on a messaging system like Slack, change your status so people know you’re unavailable. Put in headphones, make yourself a snack, and retire to a place where you can get uninterrupted privacy. If you need a change of scenery to help you focus, go to a place that won’t distract you, such as a coworking space or the local library.

Eliminate mobile access to work communication.

If you have your work/school email or Slack app on your phone, now is the time to delete it. Everything you need is accessible from your computer – and you can open it when your workday starts. When you have work-related apps on your phone, you can never fully disengage from your work. Constant access to updates, requests, and news can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. Protecting your work-life balance means giving your life some room to breathe.

Don't let your quality time and well being be ruined by the desire to be always one buzz away from work. To promote work life balance it's important to have time and energy spent outside of work. If you want to improve your work life start by taking note of what ways you "work" outside of work. By removing your work outside of work you can begin to reduce stress and avoid unhealthy work life balance.

(Pro Tip: If you’re not quite ready to delete those apps, start by turning off your notifications. Keep your work responsibilities out of sight and out of mind, and work your way up to fully removing them from your phone.)

Take daily, structured breaks.

It might seem counterproductive to stop working while you’re on the clock – but one study found that the average worker is only productive for three hours during an average day. It’s not possible to be laser-focused for eight hours straight. Clear your mind by setting regular alarms that remind you to step away from your work and reset.

Remember, a break doesn’t just involve scrolling through social media or chatting with a colleague. Be intentional about setting a specific time for your breaks and filling that time with something refreshing. Taking a break can be a great time to prioritize your physical health and break up the long hours. You might go on a walk around your neighborhood, sit down for lunch (with your phone and laptop out of reach), or even unwind for 15-20 minutes by listening to music. These are all great ways to develop a healthy work life balance.

Say no – liberally.

If someone asks you to compromise on any of the boundaries you’ve set, don’t be afraid to push back. If you say yes to everything, you won’t be able to balance it all – and both your personal and professional spheres will suffer. Set firm boundaries with your colleagues and family to maintain a healthy balance of responsibilities.

Examples of Saying “No” to Your Family
“Feel free to text me during the day, but I can’t respond until after work.”

“I’m in the middle of a task right now; I can take a break in 30 minutes.”

Examples of Saying “No” to Your Colleagues
“I’m done with work for the day, so I can’t get to this project tonight. I will make this a top priority when I start work tomorrow.”

“I’m working on something else right now, but I can message you when I’m ready to switch tasks, and we can talk then.”

Setting boundaries isn’t just for you; it will also improve the lives of people around you because you’ll be more engaged in your work and your personal responsibilities. Establishing a healthy work-life balance will help you become the best version of yourself.

Need some help getting motivated to make positive changes? Read this article on maintaining motivation.

Bailey Gerber

Content Creator, IWU-National and Global

Bailey Gerber is a vocabulary geek and grammar enthusiast at IWU-National and Global, so she spends most of her time writing and reviewing webpages, video scripts, flyers, and – of course – blog articles. She loves all things involving words, and in her spare time you’ll find her buried in a book (probably with a cup of coffee in hand).

Jake Hreha

SEO Copywriter, IWU

Jake Hreha is a graduate of Ball State University, where he majored in advertising with a concentration in media presentation and design. He is passionate about design, and in his free time he enjoys cycling, traveling, and reading.

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