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According to a study by Fundera, the stress of working in a traditional office can be alleviated by working from home.

Statistics show that 82% of telecommuters reported lower stress levels, leading to happier, more energized employees. 80% reported higher morale and 69% reported lower absenteeism.

Remote work is supposed to be a reprieve from the often stringent nature of the typical “9 to 5” work environment, but online jobs pose their own problems when not handled properly.

Nobody’s Favourite Word: Discipline

Let’s dig right into it, shall we? The common assumption is that working from home entails plenty of free time for employees to binge-watch their favourite shows while gorging on unlimited snacks. This can quickly become many people’s reality when intrinsic motivation is lacking.

Part of what makes an online career so appealing is the opportunity to manage yourself. This doesn’t have to be a daunting task, it simply depends on how dedicated you are to carving out your ideal career.

Candice offers her two cents:

“Yes, distractions are everywhere, but you need to know how to deal with it. Usually, I work 8-10 hours a day, I get easily tired and sleepy. So, it’s really important to take a break; this will allow me to energize my mind and body. As a mother, I do a lot of daily chores and it’s really important to manage my time by setting a schedule of the chores I do before I start working.”

Solutions

  • Set boundaries. With most jobs, there will always be something that needs to get done. This requires you to be disciplined about setting a boundary between your work and personal life (especially those glaring house chores). If you intend to work from home for a long time, you have to make it a sustainable lifestyle. And this requires you to set aside time to do your other tasks outside of working hours.
  • Use a time tracking device. Rescue Time is one such useful tool that keeps track of how many hours you spend on one application (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc.). This way, you can gauge your true level of productivity at the end of a “busy” day and make necessary adjustments. It also allows you to block websites that you’re particularly susceptible to and even set alerts reminding you to get back to work. 
  • Televisions and Phones. Do you really need to watch that show or respond to that message? Remember that texting can quickly become a rabbit hole that goes on for hours if you’re not careful. Schedule breaks when you can respond to messages and reward yourself with an episode or two of a TV show at the end of your workday. You don’t have to give up these simple pleasures if you manage them wisely.

What Online Career?

The concept of working from the comfort of your home and somehow achieving the same level of productivity (if not more) can be bewildering at first.

How much work can you actually get done when no one’s watching? What about all the distractions? Is the pay sufficient? Does your work really matter? Am I allowed to take breaks?

These are just a few of the many questions running through the minds of most newbie remote workers. There is absolutely no shame in not having a clue about where to start. In fact, wasn’t it Steve Jobs who challenged us to “Stay Hungry; Stay Foolish.”?

Herbert shares the benefits of training to build an online career

“I just finished reading and understanding the course you’ve given to me. Honestly, at first I didn’t really want to finish reading through because I thought I had concrete ideas on what an online job is, even though I don’t have any experience in it, but I was wrong. This course really opened my eyes to the freelancing world; I always thought that having online work is easy and there’s no need to put more effort on it, knowing that you will only work at home with your laptop and do the projects assigned to you. Freelancing is also a tough work just like having a normal office work. You need to have self-discipline in order to stay on track to have a successful online career.”

Solutions

  • Enrol in an online training course. Luckily there are seasoned individuals who, through trial and error, have fortified knowledge on the dos and don’ts of an online career. Katrina McKinnon is one such individual, who has developed a step-by-step guide, “7 Habits for Online Success”. In this course, you will learn tangible ways to build a successful career within a freelance lifestyle.
  • Read more books! You will learn quite early in the game that it isn’t how much work you do but how well you do it that sets you apart. Be proactive about perfecting your craft by reading related material. Consistent practise and exposure to information will take you to the next level in your online career. Knowledge is your greatest asset!

Even Adults Need Hobbies

Now that we’ve got discipline covered, perhaps you’re already developing a positive attitude about your online work and are successfully ignoring the many distractions around you; that’s great!

However, you still need to come up for air sometimes. And what better way to do so than by picking up a cathartic hobby?

Professionals often give up the things that matter most when contending with overwhelming time pressure. A recent Harvard Business Review article noted that in surveys, most people “could name several activities, such as pursuing a hobby, that they’d like to have time for.”

In an article for HBR, Gaetano Dinardi shares,

“When people don’t have time for hobbies, businesses pay a price. Hobbies can make workers substantially better at their jobs. I know this from personal experience. I’ve always loved playing the guitar and composing. But just like workers everywhere, I can fall into the trap of feeling that I have no time to engage in it. I can easily fall into the trap of the ‘72-hour work week’, which takes into account time people spend connected to work on our phones outside of official work hours. When I crash, there’s always the temptation to do something sedentary and mindless like spending hours in front of the television. But by spending time on music, I boost some of my most important workplace skills; creativity and confidence.”

Solutions

  • Identify your hobby. This article by Janice Bear suggests a really fun approach to picking your hobby, according to the type of worker you are. Woodworking and writing may suit someone who pays attention to detail, bodybuilding may interest someone who fancies long-term projects, renovation may suit someone who loves to improve on finished projects, and astronomy may be the perfect fit for someone looking to venture beyond their field. Don’t know what kind of online worker you are? Find out here.
  • Integrate it into your lifestyle. As a remote worker, you get to pick your hours, so you can schedule a long walk in the morning before work to kickstart your day or a workout at the end of the day to release stress. Try to place an activity related to your hobby during your work breaks, this could even be a little research on a specific area of expertise, like writing styles.

The Elusive Work-Life Balance

Consider the hectic nature of the workplace; now import that into your own home, compounded by the pressure of having to create your own schedule. This can be a total nightmare for any seasoned, well-meaning remote worker.

A 2019 study on the state of work-life balance revealed that we take 26% of our work home with us. And according to one survey, 33% of salaried workers said they do work on the weekend.

Looking at a full year of data, on average, workers did at least 1 hour of work outside normal working hours on 89 days of the year, at least 2 hours extra work on 41 days, and at least 3 hours extra work on 20 days.

Even worse, 28 of these were on weekends, meaning on average, we spend an hour or more on work during ½ of our weekends throughout the year. Now consider a freelancer’s never-ending workflow and you’ve got one fatigued, unhappy worker!

Solutions

  • Personalize your schedule. This allows you to complete tasks effectively, without cutting into your personal or family time. You will have an easier time staying on track and maintaining balance.
  • Ever heard of taking a mental health day? Sure, one day won’t solve all of your problems, but it can provide the necessary first step in creating space for a clear mind. Consider taking a day off to regroup. Begin by reflecting on what exactly you need; a rest along with some good food, a fun activity, or a change in your usual schedule. Then you can resume your work when you’re refuelled and ready!
  • Ask for help. Any new life event can be overwhelming. How about bringing in a professional to help you navigate this new phase? It could be a mentor or a therapist, just someone whom you can share your challenges with and brainstorm on working solutions. This will go a long way in ensuring you don’t feel alone or abandoned in your new fun work lifestyle.

Life-Work Balance Strategist Sabrina Cadini gives her two cents on this very crucial aspect:

“Sadly, many aren’t able to prioritize, strategize, and fully focus on different tasks and activities. Multi-tasking still reigns supreme and distractions constantly sabotage their daily life (personally and professionally). Awareness and the ability to set boundaries are very important. I would also like to add that self-care, which sounds very silly and a lazy thing to do, is essential for our long-term health. It can even change the way we work. Realizing that we need time and space for ourselves can give us more time to rest, regenerate and improve our productivity. Fewer distractions, more clarity, better results.”

  Photo by Pressfoto / CC BY
Katrina
Author

I'm Katrina McKinnon, creator of eCommerce University, founder of McKinnon Group and Small Revolution. I'm using my 20 years' experience in building and operating online businesses to create engaging educational materials that helps others become successful online workers. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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