The shadow side of remote work: blurring of boundaries

At GapJumpers we’ve worked remotely for five years. Our employees live all over the world and are scattered across timezones, so remote working was always the most practical options for us.

Working remotely has much upside: flexibility, more hours in your day (since you don’t commute) and being able to manage your workflow according to your preferences and personal situation, especially when it comes to things like caring for family partners, or kids.

But there is a shadow side to remote working, that many organisations and teams might run up against as they moved to 100% remote in the last few weeks.

The physical office, in ways we often take for granted, acts like a big boundary between work and life.

While we have email to bother us at all times of the day and week, for a large part, when we get out of the office, start our commute home, we create space between work and ourselves.

“I’d love to, but lets reschedule this meeting for tomorrow, because I’m heading out the door” is something we lose when we move to remote.

We might find ourselves taking calls at times outside of the normal work hours (both before or after).

Or we might sneak in that one meeting on our day off, because we subconsciously feel like that day off (in the crisis that we find ourselves) does not count, and we like being a team player more than being seen as selfish.

Without some serious boundaries, working from home means the office will seep into your life and make you feel like work is 24/7, while also making you doubt whether you are actually getting any work done.

As team leaders it is important to agree and set boundaries for your team so that you ensure they stay engaged, productive and retain a sense of work life balance.

The first and most important one is to make it ok for people to say no, without it being held against them (because we don’t always know what the home situation is like).

If you’d like to know whether your teams work life balance is getting skewed, tracking meeting markers can be a good start.

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