No matter which profession you are in, there is a high chance you’ve been put in a strange and uncomfortable situation over the past months. I am talking about the shift to working remotely, of course. When your home becomes your office, you lose the ability to leave everything at the door. Clocking in or out means nothing in today’s work climate. Even worse, you might feel the need to overcompensate by working throughout the day to showcase your productiveness.
You might not realize that all these are coming at a considerable cost to your mental health. On average, remote workers log 6–7 more hours per week than office workers. This is because you don’t get the chance to spend around watercoolers and chatting with colleagues, which are valuable for taking mental breaks. You unplug from work much less when you are working from home without these distractions. While this leads to increased productivity, it is concerning because you are losing the equilibrium between your work and non-work hours, which could have serious implications down the road.
Damage to Professional Reputation
Boundaries are critical to any work, especially so if you are a freelancer. Without it, clients will lose their respect for your time and call you at any time of the day. In extreme situations, some clients could even take your willingness to entertain work calls outside of working hours as a sign of inexperience, using it to take advantage of you. Even though we want to seem readily available, it will lead your superiors or peers to wonder if you are ever working on anything important. Why else will you be able to drop everything to respond to them as and when? Stick to your boundaries, and assess the urgency of inquiries or tasks. As a remote worker, if your company allows you flexible work hours, make sure you stick to them. Otherwise, every waking hour will become working hours.
Damage to Social Life & Relationships
Your friends might forgive you for being busy once or twice, but what if you missed the last 10 Zoom hangouts they have planned? Finding time for each other in this period is already trying enough, and it takes a special kind of discipline to adhere to scheduled social time. Zoom calls are easier to blow off than actual dinner reservations, so make sure you don’t fall into this convenience trap. This also applies to be mentally present at your social events or family time. For those of us working at home, it could seem tempting to pop into your mailbox for a quick check on “urgent emails”. Don’t try to squeeze work into your personal time. Instead, commit your focus to whoever you are spending time with. This way, you don’t end up distracted and lacking on both ends.
Limit Self-Perception and Appreciation
If you are always working, your perception of yourself will be severely diminished. Try describing a workaholic; someone who works most of their waking hours and sacrifices friends and family for work. Would you want someone to describe you the same way? There is nothing wrong with being passionate and goal-driven. However, work requires a tremendous level of mental energy and performance. In return, you get money or other goods. To put it very bluntly, work is commodified, and you are essentially selling your time and effort. While there is nothing wrong with this, you have to remember that there is much more to you than just work. If not, it will be no different from selling yourself.
Work-life balance has been explored for about 40 years, but it hasn’t been in such focus as in the past months. With no physical boundary to work and home, you need a clear plan to avoid falling into a rut. Hopefully, understanding the potential implications would jolt you into paying more attention to balancing your work and life.