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Is Remote Work the Key to a Better Work-Life Balance? Maybe Not.

By Maurie Backman – Oct 9, 2019 at 8:09AM

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There are many benefits of not having to report to an office, but beware that remote work can also lead to more work.

For many employees, working remotely is a perk they're eager to capitalize on. When you work remotely, generally from home, you get much more flexibility in your schedule. You don't have to race out the door to catch a bus, or get to the freeway by a certain hour lest you risk rotting away in traffic.

And there are monetary savings involved, too. Working remotely means you don't have to bear the expense of commuting. And while buying lunch isn't a mandatory part of working in an office, it's often a costly byproduct.

Working from home can even be a solid career move. In fact, in a new report by Ultimate Software, 90% of remote employees say they feel very productive. And when we think about the various distractions involved in a traditional office setting, from loud coworkers to ringing phones to impromptu in-person meetings, that makes sense.

Woman sitting at a desk with an open laptop, holding her glasses and pinching her nose as if tired

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

But here's one potential downside to working remotely: You might end up pushing yourself to do more because you always have access to your office. In the aforementioned report, 76% of remote employees say they work beyond their set hours on a weekly basis. And 25% of remote employees work beyond their scheduled hours every day.

If you're a remote worker, or are fighting to be one, understand the risks associated with potentially always being on the job. Otherwise, you might regret your decision to fight for that arrangement in the first place.

Don't let yourself burn out

Plugging away at your job nonstop because you have all the right tools accessible is a good way to increase your risk of burnout. And make no mistake about it: Burnout is a serious problem in today's workforce. The Mayo Clinic describes it as "a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work." Ouch.

That's why if you're going to do your job remotely, you must set boundaries to avoid burnout and maintain a reasonable work-life balance. For one thing, aim to work only during your scheduled hours unless a truly urgent matter arises that needs your immediate attention. And to be clear, a few extra emails that come in after-hours don't constitute an emergency, nor does a message from your boss asking for an update on an ongoing project. These are all things that can wait until morning.

Furthermore, if you are going to work beyond your regular hours a few nights a week, pledge to take one or two nights off in that regard. Better yet, schedule plans for those nights so you have a reason to unplug.

But don't just set those boundaries for yourself; establish them with your boss and colleagues, too. That way, the people you work with will know when to expect you to be available, and when they shouldn't bother you unless it's really urgent.

Working remotely introduces a level of flexibility to your schedule that office-based employees often lack. Just don't make the mistake of using your remote work arrangement as a reason to work all the time.

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