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The Balancing Act of Working Remotely


Woman working remotely from home

Nearly four years ago, I left my office with nothing more than my work-issued laptop and the notion I’d return to my cube in a few weeks. On the elevator down to the lobby, I thought if anyone was built for quarantine it was me. Cozy clothes? Yes! More time with my dog? Even better. As an introvert and homebody, I’m in my element working from home and have had that benefit with other companies. For my current employer, this once temporary perk is now a permanent part of the company culture.


As the months and years passed, restrictions lifted, and the world has gone back to “normal”. I’ve battled the challenge of distinguishing from myself the employee and myself the individual.


My waistband is still flexible, and my commute time is less than 30 seconds. But was I really built for remote work?


A Soft Line in the Sand

I’m fortunate to have encouragement from colleagues, managers, and leadership who emphasize the importance of our work-life balance. While I don’t rack up mileage on my car or spend an hour getting ready in the morning, I do still focus on being efficient with my time. Because I can take my work anywhere—the couch, Starbucks, a beach—I discovered it was difficult to disengage and differentiate myself from being on the clock to on my own time.


The work-life boundaries, for me, are not always crystal clear nor consistent based on projects, appointments, meetings, workload, etc. So, while it’s uncomfortable at times, I think of work time and personal time as a blend of my day.


Making Work Work for Me

I’ve embraced more of the gray areas of remote work and figured out tricks to help me navigate each day. Though it’s not a foolproof system, it’s prevented me from regularly stretching myself too thin while enabling me to complete projects and meet deadlines. How?

  • Block your calendar. I noticed my work schedule was occupied by meetings almost all day, every day. It was overwhelming to feel like I wasn’t in charge of my own time. To fix that, I started to block off chunks of “desk time” on my calendar so I knew I had dedicated focus time. I also know that I’m best later in the day or in the evening, so if I’m motivated, I’ll put in a few hours when I know the virtual office is quiet.

  • Don’t forget to eat. This might seem obvious—but when you’re in back-to-back meetings from morning through afternoon and you don’t live with a personal chef, even drinking water can seem like a chore. Though I nurse my coffee until lunchtime, I’ve made a conscious effort to eat before noon, even if that means I’m a few minutes late to my next meeting or I don’t appear on camera. The best part? My coworkers are supportive, and I don’t get hangry.

  • Download communication apps. Again, this may seem obvious, but access to email and chat on my phone allows me peace of mind if I step away from my desk. Though, proceed with caution and don’t let the urge to respond or scroll consume you. When I’m on vacation, I remove the apps from my phone’s home screen and disable all notifications.

  • Teach people how to treat you. This was an invaluable piece of advice I received from a former coworker. Part of my job at the time was managing volunteers who would email, call, and text me at all hours. Once I made the mistake of responding to an email at midnight—I set the precedent that I was always available at midnight. I apply this same concept working from home. Of course, emergencies happen, but this has been effective.

  • Say no when possible. This takes practice. I understand it can be difficult, especially for those who are natural caregivers and people-pleasers. Saying no can also be tricky in service-based roles where a project is requested, and deadlines are often tight. To protect my own bandwidth (and my colleagues’), I’ve found it helpful to under-promise and over-deliver. That might look like clearly defining a due date that works for all parties, padding the project timeline, or offering an alternative if it’s just not possible. This tactic has helped me build trusting relationships with my teammates and sharpens my interpersonal skills.


The Silver Lining

The pivot from working in an office full-time to working from home gave me more than a drawer full of sweats. During the pandemic, I went more than two years without seeing my younger sister, my only sibling with whom I’m close. Remote work allowed me to make the 2,700-mile trek to visit her, and it’s given me the opportunity to visit my 91-year-old grandmother in Arizona several times—including another trip coming up in a few weeks.


Working from home allows me to get a haircut without facing existential guilt or run a quick errand while taking a work call. Some of my favorite coworkers are women who live in different time zones, and we may never get to meet in-person.


Do I manage a work-life balance perfectly? Absolutely not. But rather than focusing on perfection in this newish professional era, I’m learning how to create a balance that serves me. Plus, I go to work every day with my best friend, Gus.


Written by Shawn Kramer


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