Setting Boundaries with Remote Work

example of remote working environment

There once was a farmer in ancient China. The farmer raised and trained horses. His youngest stallion won first place at the town’s fair. The local people cheered and celebrated the farmer. The farmer’s only reply was, “Could be good, could be not?”

The fame caught the attention of horse thieves who came a week later and stole the prize stallion. The townspeople pitied the farmer. The farmer’s only reply was, “Could be bad, could be not?”

A week later, the stallion returned with two mares. It has escaped and returned home. Two wild horses had followed the stallion back to the farm where the whole group was raised and loved by the farmer. The townspeople were in awe of the farmer’s good luck! The farmer’s only reply was, “Could be good, could be not?”

The farmer needed the new mares to plow the fields. He tasked his son to train the new horses to pull the plow. One afternoon, the mare bucked the son off and he broke his leg. The townspeople said the new horse was a curse. The farmer’s only reply was, “Could be good, could be not?”

The next week the townspeople declared war on the neighboring town. An army captain came to the farm to draft the farmer’s son and saw he was lame with a broken leg. He was unfit for war. The townspeople were jealous of the farmer keeping his son when they had to sacrifice theirs. The farmer’s only reply was, “Could be good, could be not?”

The moral of the story — we judge things as good and bad at the moment.

Before, working remotely was a concept many craved years ago and exploded with the pandemic. Today, many workers have fond memories of office parties, water cooler talk, going to lunch, and having clearly defined spaces for work that did not touch their home life.

Now, a lot of us are struggling with having boundaries as we balance life and work under the same roof. Here are a few ideas to set boundaries when working remotely.

Carve out a dedicated work space within your home

Try to have a space at home only for work-related activities. When WFH started, some of us tried to make their bed or sofa their work area. As we went longer into remote work, we realized we were creating unnecessary neck strains and eliminating areas associated with rest.

Invest in some quality office furniture, including an ergonomic desk and chair to make it functional. This is an opportunity to show off your office style. Some workers choose to leave their working area as bare as possible; while others convert a closet or create an office with their own special touches to replicate their pastime in-office setup. All you really need is a surface and (sometimes) a door, and in a pinch, you can use a curtain to create a divide.

Create and keep a realistic schedule

Be mindful of the start and end of your day. This will allow your body to know what is going to happen next and produce the right chemicals for waking and sleeping. It’s recommended that one should wake up and go to bed around the same time. Don’t wake up minutes before the start of your work day so you have time to get into the groove of things.

Your friends and family may want to call you during work hours. It can be hard if you want to catch up. Put your phone on silent to avoid distractions and be the most efficient. If available, shut the door and keep focused only to work. Another productivity method some find useful is setting timers for work times and break times. This will prevent the need to work after hours and on weekends.

Schedule blocks of time in your work calendar to be productive & take breaks

Online calendars that are empty become meeting magnets. Leaving some time for dedicated work, creativity, or programming trains your body to stay focused and keeps the meeting at bay. Yes, your boss will trump your time occasionally, but keeping time for yourself to do your core productive tasks is critical. Many remote workers spend all day in zoom meetings and end up doing their actual work in the mornings and later in the evening when everyone else has logged off. It is an easy trap to fall into.

Schedule time to take your lunch, refill your water/coffee, and enjoy a snack. Leash up the dog and have a quick walk around the block to give your mind a break. Having a few minutes to yourself can make you more productive. Try not to complete household chores when having a break to maximize a sense of rest.

Minimize distractions

While working in the office you may have had chatter and other distractions. News flash: your home does as well. Pets may want endless cuddles. Chores might be calling your name. Delivery men might be dropping off packages. Create a list of distractions and start trying to eliminate them.

Give your pet a toy to keep them occupied. Set aside a non-negotiable time to complete household tasks. Wait until lunch or the end of the day to retrieve packages.

It’s important to note that there are distractions that are often unexpected and out of your control, so it’s always the expectation that there will be an understanding manager on the other end of a chat who will know why you’ve had to make a shift in your deadlines and priorities.

Be presentable

Working from home is great, but there is still a line of professionalism to uphold even when working remotely. Every day can be casual Friday, not lounging Saturday. If you are appearing on camera, brush your hair and wear an appropriate top. Getting dressed signals that it is time to work. Make the weekend the time to lounge in pajamas.

Don’t check in during your off time

Technology makes it easier to be “on” during the weekends and vacations. Avoid the pull of just doing a quick task or answering emails. As soon as your work day is over, have a routine to signal to your brain that it is now off-duty. This could be walking the dog, doing a chore like taking out the trash, or taking a shower.

Without boundaries, it will feel like your workday never ends. Create and honor your boundaries so your mental health will thank you. ThriveDX supports all lifelong learners and staff as they set boundaries for happier and healthier lives. How do you set work-related boundaries?


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