Aug 14, 2023
6 mins read
With the rise of remote work, the concept of work-life balance got a whole lot of attention. And while the lines might have been blurred as employees adjusted to working from home, even after the pandemic, the challenge still remains. This is especially true considering the criticism remote work seems to be getting, particularly as it relates to productivity.
That might not bode well for some remote workers in their attempts to carve out some semblance of a work-life balance. But within remote-first companies, many remote workers have figured out what work-life balance looks like. Or at least, they have a sense of what an outline might be, which is more than many might have been able to say a couple of years ago, deep in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, we interviewed 5 of our own Flexspace employees to get a better understanding of what work-life balance truly looks like for remote teams. As a remote-first company with teams spread globally, we felt as though their stories would encapsulate the experiences that many remote workers could relate to.
While their experience with remote work varies, most are like many employees who started working remotely in 2020. But regardless of when they started working remotely, the 4 themes that emerged from their interviews offer valuable insights into work-life balance for remote teams.
Work-life balance is a fluid concept
When asked to describe their work-life balance, our employees had vastly different answers, which is an important reminder when we think about this concept. Work-life balance is deeply personal and best defined by the person experiencing it, rather than having it be something that is defined for someone else. And from the employees we spoke with, it seems to be everchanging. For example, Cathy L., Product Operations Coordinator, described her work-life balance as “a work in progress,” whereas Caelin B., Account Manager, stated that “it’s the best it’s ever been.”
As Khanh D., Engineering Manager, Partners, put it:
“Work-life balance is not about maintaining 50% focus at work and 50% focus outside of work. Knowing when to shift the focus around work and life from time to time is the key and worthwhile skill to get better over the lifetime.”
The biggest challenge: Setting boundaries
A common theme amongst the Flexspace team members we chatted with was that their biggest challenge when it comes to work-life balance is setting boundaries. And while this is not surprising, it’s helpful to be able to define what the problem is so that a solution can be found.
Michelle K.’s (Product Manager) experience is a perfect example of boundary setting and the challenges it can create, particularly when you are a fully remote employee:
“When your whole team is remote and distributed, it can feel overwhelming to get messages and emails in the early mornings or evenings and on weekends. I often feel like if I don’t respond asap, I’m not doing my job well. It’s definitely a challenge to not feel like you have to be constantly ‘on’ 24/7.”
Self-care is important
Our team members noted the importance of self-care, particularly as it relates to work-life balance goals. Self-care is a multi-faceted concept, but at its core it’s defined as “the process of establishing behaviors to ensure holistic well-being of oneself, to promote health, and actively manage illness when it occurs. Individuals engage in some form of self-care daily with food choices, exercise, sleep, reading, and dental care.”
Both Cathy and Caelin spoke specifically about self-care, from just the basic concept itself to more specifics, like getting outside and going to the gym more. For Michelle, self-care took the form of more self-awareness and understanding that there will always be work to be done, and it’ll be there when you log in. Aside from deadlines, not everything has to be done immediately, she added. And Minh V., Engineering Manager, Teams, shared that flexibility was key so that he could have the ability to tend to personal matters, while still feeling productive at work.
Be intentional with your work-life balance
When asked what advice they would give to fellow remote workers who were struggling with work-life balance, the commonality was intentionality. So, if you’re going to make it a point to prioritize your work-life balance, you have to really make the decision to focus on it. From small goals to setting up a routine to help with boundaries, taking the time and energy to think about what work-life balance is for you, and creating both a physical and mental space that supports that is important.
Whether your team is fully remote like ours at Flexspace, or you’re working in a hybrid setting, understanding what work-life balance means to you can help you feel more successful and satisfied, both at work and at home.