Roles in many specialisms, and across many industries, are designed to be remote, with employees working from varied locations, often on a rotating shift pattern, and with antisocial hours. Think retail and hospitality area managers, HR specialists in many industries, sales people and experts in niche roles which require wide travel.
The roles can be a joy, and suit those who enjoy the variety and challenge of working without true routine - but, particularly with technology allowing you to work wherever, whenever, finding work life balance as a field-based manager can be a challenge.
If you’re in a field-based role, then don’t take risks. Before you burn out, take a little time to think about the following ideas to help you find the right balance for you.
Remember: Visibility does not equal productivity
As a remote employee it can be tempting to have the phone, laptop and blackberry switched on all of the time. After all, we can take calls in the car, check our mail on the loo (if you really want to), and sort out our expenses at the dinner table. But doing so isn’t healthy. Shake off the fear that people might think you’re taking an unearned break if you don’t pick up the phone or reply immediately to their mail.
Build a routine that works for you, perhaps being available for calls between set hours, and with an agreement that issues will be flagged via mail outside of these hours unless it is a real emergency. Check your emails at fixed times, and try to avoid the temptation to ’quickly flick through’ mail first and last thing - it is never a relaxing start or finish to your day!
Look after yourself
If you’re able to kick the habit of constantly checking the phone - regardless if it is a weekend, holiday or two in the morning, then move onto taking more proactive steps to look after yourself. Keeping fit and healthy for work is a must - including taking time to recover if you are actually sick. In a remote job you can feel a fraud calling your boss to say you’re sick - after all, he may think you’re exaggerating if he can’t see your runny nose to prove it. Build a strong relationship with those around you and your direct manager so you are able to talk about how you’re feeling, and don’t be tempted to be a martyr and go into work when you’re too sick to do so. You’re doing nobody a favour.
Learn to say no
Working in a remote role can mean that very few people actually see everything you’re involved in on a day to day basis. As a result colleagues might not notice when you’re getting bogged down with work, as they only ever see a small slice of what you do. Because of this, the only person who can protect your time is you. Learn to say no when you don’t have the time to take on more tasks. Negotiate realistic deadlines and help others to understand your diary and commitments so you can work together to get a level of work which is challenging but healthy.
Find your way to wind down
Finally, find your own way to relax at the end of the day or week. That might be simply putting your favourite music on for the long drive home, listening to an audio book on your commute, going to the gym or indulging in your favourite hobby for an hour or two. If you’re having a stressful time at work, it can help to use travel time as a mental insulation that breaks work and home life - leave the working day in the car (even literally leave your suit jacket or work bag if it helps), and try for the first twenty minutes at home to talk positively about your day. The result will be a more enjoyable evening, better relaxation, and a positive impact on the following day at work.
There are days in a remote job when you feel like the luckiest person in the world - the travel, the variety and the challenge are energising; and other days when it feels like you’re cursed with an impossible task and uncomprehending colleagues. The key to navigate this successfully is to find your own personal balance which will enable you to have a rich and rewarding life at home as well as work.
Image: Motorway via Flickr