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Boundaries and Balance: The Rules of Engagement for Remote Workers

The 2020 pandemic propelled remote employment into the mainstream, offering newfound freedom for individuals to work from any location. While the workforce continues to grapple with this transformative shift with many companies mandating a return to office, remote work presents an exceptional opportunity for both employees and companies willing to adapt their strategies and establish clear boundaries. 

Having been a remote worker for nearly a decade, I’ve witnessed the evolution of remote work from the early days when people questioned if I even had a job, to the present where it has become an integral part of many business plans. Managing remote work becomes more intricate as you look at the varying roles you may fill and the different people who may fill those roles. Employees and employers must find a balance and, perhaps most importantly, set boundaries. 

Let’s talk about those boundaries. Working remotely was easier in my early twenties than it is in my early thirties. Now I have three not-yet-school-aged children and a remote-working husband in a too-small-for-us house. Remote work is great, but it ain’t for the faint of heart! To maintain satisfaction between employers and employees, employees and their work-life balance, and clients and the results and attention they’re paying for, remote workers must take a proactive approach to establishing boundaries and balance to achieve success: 

  1. Establishing No-Access Zones – To maintain focus and professionalism, it’s essential to set strict boundaries for no-access zones. When my office door is closed, it signifies that I am immersed in work and unavailable unless it’s a genuine emergency. Communicating these boundaries to family members is vital, preventing disruptions during important client calls or touchbases with my direct reports. By upholding these limits, I foster an environment of respect and understanding for my clients, my colleagues and my family. 
  2. Set a schedule and stick to it. It’s easy as a remote worker to be the target for school pickups and other daily errands because your work seems the most flexible. On more than one occasion, I’ve had someone call me during the work day and ask what I’m up to. Well, I’m working! My family has a set schedule and responsibilities with childcare and dropoffs/pickups that we stick to. I’m not constantly worried about negotiating who will tackle what errand and when or worried that my kids are standing in the car rider line with no parent in sight. 
  3. Incorporating breaks for productivity: While remote work offers unparalleled focus that an office environment can’t try to compete with, it’s crucial to integrate breaks throughout the day. It’s not shocking to find remote workers are often more efficient than those in the office as they’re not distracted by office politics, water cooler talk, or random assignments that pull them off task. Working remotely often eliminates those distractions, and if you’re disciplined enough, you can accomplish much of your day in a fraction of the time. And while it’s tempting to get everything out the door as expeditiously as possible, I’ve found working straight through my day often leads to burnout and dull ideas. Set breaks or reminders to come up for air, go for a walk, or stretch. Our Smart Home Assistant audibly tells my kids to “give mommy a hug” for the time of my day that I have scheduled to take a break. And with my kids getting the reminder too, it reminds me to enjoy the flexibility remote work offers – a midafternoon coffee and conversation with my kids. 
  4. Overcommunicate everytime. Remote employees have more flexibility and less oversight simply because they’re not on the other side of a cubicle. They may be on the other side of the country! Overcommunication is key. I ensure my team knows where my tasks are and when to expect them. And when I have an emergency or unforeseen situation come up, I overcommunicate when I’m going to be out, when I expect to be back, if I’m available by phone or text, and where my tasks or assignments are at that moment. They’re not left guessing. 
  5. End-of-Day Preparation – A key tenet of successful remote work is embracing the philosophy that “a lack of preparation on my part does not an emergency on anyone else’s part make.” Prioritizing staying ahead of deadlines, preparing agendas well in advance and knowing what the next day holds is a proactive approach that ensures smooth transitions during unexpected events and fosters a collaborative and accountable remote work culture.

Mastering the art of remote work requires a combination of discipline, communication, and boundary setting. By implementing a strategic approach, individuals can navigate the challenges of remote work while reaping the benefits of flexibility and efficiency. And the best part is companies reap the benefits as well – a larger well of potential employees who are often more efficient, happier in their job, and even healthier.  

Kaitlin Jarvis is the Managing Director of Telemetry. She’s a strategic communications professional with expertise shaping strategy for global B2B and B2C brands. With experience executing high-profile consumer launches, Kaitlin’s expertise in marrying research with creative storytelling, media relations and social media has proven to drive measurable business results for brands like Michelin USA, Mizuno, Ashton Woods Homes, Tire Rack, among others. 

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