Image by Colin Harris
You’ll find varying answers to the question, “is work-life balance for remote employees a myth?” As an example, Dennis McCafferty of Baseline Magazine reports that a Flex+Strategy Group survey reveals how remote staff enjoy better work-life balance. “42% of cube workers and 31% of remote workers say they have less work-life flexibility now than they did a year ago,” says Dennis, suggesting that people who work in offices are less likely to enjoy work-life balance. “And 47% of remote workers say they're likely to receive training or guidance to manage work-life flexibility.”
On the other hand, Samantha Cole, former editorial contributor at FastCompany.com, says that remote employees have to work even harder than their on-site peers to stay visible and top-of-mind. “Many companies still insist that work be the number one priority in an employee’s life,” says Samantha. “If where you invest face time is where your priorities lie, then remote workers are at a steep disadvantage.”
Weird as it sounds, both statements are true. The reason stories of remote work-life balance vary is because we all have different ideas of what work-life balance even is. According to Nicole Fallon, assistant editor at Business News Daily, workers and bosses in particular tend to disagree on the definition of work-life balance. “67 percent of employers say their workers have a good work-life balance,” Nicole reports survey findings. “(while) nearly half of employees say they don't have enough time in the week for personal activities, and one-fifth spend more than 20 hours a week working outside the office during their personal time.”
Whether you’re working with onsite staff or with a remote team, encouraging a healthy work-life balance within your team is necessary for reducing stress. Reducing stress in turn grants you increased productivity, better innovation, employee retention, and better appeal to new talent.
How do you manage that with a team you’re physically far away from? We’ve rounded up these five work-life balance tips.
Change starts at the top.
To support your remote team’s pursuit of work-life balance, you’re responsible for modeling professional responsibility. “To further emphasize that employees understand the importance of this delicate balance, managers should practice a healthy work-life balance in their own lives,” according to Ajay Kaul, managing partner of collaboration platform AgreeYa, in a CIO.com article by Sharon Florentine. Since you’re working with a remote team, you need to put effort into making your own work-life balance obvious. You can show this in the way you communicate. “(Start by) establishing realistic goals, prioritization, organizing workload and staying focused to accomplish each responsibility as a milestone.”
Clarify expected results and timelines.
Business coach David Finkel emphasizes the need to establish clear expectations, so you can also set in stone how your whole team defines work-life balance. Once more, communication comes into play -- constantly communicate your expectations for your team. Whether you’re all talking in a scheduled chat meeting or sending each other quick chat messages, at the end of each conversation, you have to keep team expectations clear and aligned.
“What concrete results do you expect them to generate? What does great performance of their position actually look like?” are David’s suggested guide questions. “By focusing on clear success criteria you empower your remote team to understand what they are working to accomplish,” as opposed to working just for the sake of working.
Do fewer things, but do them well.
Eric Barker, author at Time.com, says that you and your remote team should all sort your tasks by importance. One way to determine important tasks is to focus on the things that only each of you can do. “If someone else can do the filing at work, let them do it,” says Eric. “But if you’re the sales lead you need to be at the sales meeting.”
As an example, your remote web developer should focus on coding sites more than helping your software engineer debug an app. Have your remote administrative assistant prepare that analytics report, so you’ll have time to build your growth strategy.
Encourage your team to separate work from life.
Remind your remote team (and yourself!) that it’s important to relax before even relaxing becomes stressful. Encourage lunch breaks, allow cigarette breaks, and let them go out of their offices for fresh air.
Corporate PR professional Katy Reddin advises that if you and your team want to unplug, even temporarily, you should do it completely. “Go for a walk, get out of town, and don’t compare yourself,” are the three unplugging tips Katy recommends. “Allowing yourself to be alone and move around can give you some much-needed time to de-stress.”
Give them days off.
A day off can do re-energizing wonders for your remote team. According to Ace Callwood of Coffitivity, this is because “work for work’s sake makes no sense if we never take time off to appreciate what we've created.”
“On the evening that we finally shipped Coffitivity 3.0, we went straight to the bar,” Ace narrates. “When we finally jumped back into the website almost an entire day later, we felt refreshed and ready to rock. Simply put, the break was re-energizing and we were better for it individually and as a team.”
If you’re working with a team in a different time zone, keep in mind that your Friday grind might be the weekend for them. Let them spend that weekend rejuvenating. They’ll be back soon enough, with more energy to do their magic and get work done.
How do you maintain your team’s work-life balance? Got more tips? Share them with us on the comments, or get in touch with us at Info@BoltonRemote.com.
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