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5 Ways To Set Boundaries for a Healthy Work-Life Balance

6 min read

Two of the biggest reasons people apply to Float (myself included) are the ability to work remotely and the company’s emphasis on living our best work life. As more and more people are provided the opportunity to work remotely, it’s important for companies to ensure they’re actually happy doing so.

Yet, this doesn’t happen without a well-thought-out approach. One of the headscratchers with remote work is that it can both enable and sabotage work-life balance. Our work culture at Float is all about finding ways to enable it.

On the one hand, remote work is an effective work mode

Working from home has solved so many problems for so many people. In addition to being a literal lifesaver during the COVID-19 pandemic when it was not safe to work from a traditional office, the flexibility it provides is a real eye opener to many people.

For me, remote work helped me kiss my commute goodbye, at first. I quickly realized I also enjoyed the flexibility and peace and quiet of having my own space, fully optimized for deep work 🧠. For others, the benefits are far more important—like the flexibility it offers to working parents or how it supports people who live with disabilities.

In fact, more people now say they work from home by choice rather than necessity, while the reverse was true earlier in the pandemic.

The unintended consequences

Like most things, remote work isn’t perfect. It often blurs the lines between work and having a personal life.

When your home is your office, your personal devices are right next to your work devices (or they are your work devices). Even when you’re having lunch or doing chores, you’re often within earshot of Slack pings and email notifications. Your personal life can sometimes distract you from work, too.

Another concern is how burnout affects remote workers, and the reasons for this may be complex. For example, during the pandemic, 67% of those working remotely said they felt pressured to be available at all hours of the day, while 65% admitted to working longer hours than ever before. Feelings of loneliness and isolation also affect some remote workers.

Setting boundaries to get remote work right

Living our best work life means we empower ourselves to be happy and productive at work by using the right tools and processes. Much of that is about removing pressure, adding flexibility, and creating a culture that is energizing instead of draining.

Here are a few effective ways we’ve found to set boundaries between our work and personal lives at Float.

1) Be asynchronous-first

This is a big one. Even before I joined Float a month ago, I understood that asynchronous work was critical to the company.

At first glance, it seems that we have no choice because we’re a global, distributed team spanning multiple time zones. Some of us don’t have any overlap at all. But it’s more than just a necessity. We’re able to hire from anywhere in the world precisely because we’re asynchronous-first. We use Notion for documentation, 15Five for check-ins, and we find short bursts of time to connect face-to-face with colleagues when needed.

More importantly, we’re mindful of time zones and other people’s routines. This removes the pressure to seek or give instant replies to messages. Otherwise, work-life balance would not exist. Linda Biggs, our People Ops Manager, summarized this danger well in a recent blog post:

“A few years ago, I was working for a fully remote team, and the expectation was that people should be online when the founders were online, which turned out to be all the time. It felt like being chained to my computer, and the culture was one of fear. It was a crippling environment, and I didn't want to stick around for long.”

Asynchronous communication is also more thoughtful—instead of opting for late-night meetings with colleagues 10 hours behind, we take the time to send clear and concise asynchronous messages. This helps reduce meetings and increase productivity.

2) Share working hours

We use Slack as our primary messaging platform. One of its benefits is that you can add your usual work hours, so the team will know when you’re likely to be online. These hours aren’t restrictive—because we’re asynchronous-first, there’s flexibility to design a productive workday as we see fit. Sharing the general times you will be online can still be helpful, as people can see when you’ll be available for a chat or whether you’re done for the day.

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And while we’re on the subject of Slack, I’ve noticed that more people here at Float use the “mute notifications” option for outside of their work hours or when they’re deep working. It’s not always the case in startups, in my experience, to feel enabled to turn off communications. But even that is a vital part of setting boundaries.

3) Enable alternatives

Float has many useful perks and benefits (as seen on our careers page). But one of those that can really help make a difference in setting work-life boundaries is the coworking space allowance. As of last month, almost 25% of our team use it, alongside their home office setup.

Whether you’re feeling isolated at home or there are too many distractions around, a change of scenery is sometimes the best way to refresh your motivation.

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This option also enables you to emulate one of the better aspects of working from an office: switching off. While at home, you may still carry work in your mind even after you’re done, but the act of turning off your laptop and getting up from your desk to leave can provide the motivation to leave work behind for the remainder of the day.

4) Be deliberate about time (and time off)

The Float product is a resource management tool that helps companies plan their team’s time better. That’s why we could never not follow what we preach—how we spend time matters!

So we use our tool to track our time at work. This includes adding our public holidays and personal leave days, so they are clear to our colleagues.

Another important initiative is the No FOMO week at the end of the year. That’s because taking time off often results in work piling up or feelings of fear of missing out (or FOMO 😏). So our team decided to take the all-team holiday perk for a spin (and it worked).

5) Build it into the brand

One look at our blog, and you’ll know we’re really into asynchronous, remote work. We share our experiences and perspectives with the world because we’re trying to make our culture a standard way of working in the future (and we’re succeeding!).

But even on a smaller scale, we keep our approach in mind. During my onboarding, our Director of Marketing, Siobhan Hayes, told me about how our blog images should be consistent with our culture. As an example, she cited an image created by our design team that showed a person eating lunch in front of their laptop. It was a well-crafted image (not unusual for our talented designers), but it wasn’t consistent with our best work life approach—lunch hour should be a break—a time to recharge and refocus.

Re-evaluate and improve

The thing with remote work is that you can easily see why it’s not perfect. If you had asked me a few years ago if I’d like to work from home permanently, I would have probably said no. I was having so much fun being around work friends, watercooler breaks, lunches on the terrace, and giggling with my team about nothing in particular.

But now, as a remote worker for more than two years, it’s unlikely I’ll want to go back to the office any time soon. That’s because Float takes remote work (and its challenges) seriously and constantly finds ways to improve. Continuous improvement is one of Float's core values and it’s especially important for achieving work-life balance.

Finding ways to set boundaries is key to ensuring working remotely…well, works!

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