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X-Team

The Guilt of Not Working

Thomas De Moor
Content Marketer
Originally published at x-team.com on ・3 min read

It's harder for a remote worker than it is for an office worker to fully switch off after work. There's no commute and, if you have flexible working hours, no agreed-upon time when you should start and stop working. While this gives great flexibility, it also means that work threatens to flow into life until both are so intertwined you end up working constantly.

This can quickly lead to stress and, eventually, burnout. That's why X-Team wholeheartedly recommends you set strict boundaries between work and life. But even if you encage your working hours, it's hard to stop thinking about work. How fully do you switch off from work when you're done for the day? Do you:

  • Still think of work at the dinner table?
  • See incoming JIRA ticket emails?
  • See your colleague's messages on Slack?

These "micro-work" moments might seem harmless, but they tie you to work and make it harder to relax. Deep relaxation is crucially important for your health, as well as your productivity for the next day, so it's in your best interests to limit micro-work.

We feel uncomfortable turning off work notifications or stopping all thoughts about work because of a deeply rooted connection between work and success. We've all been taught to work hard. If you don't, you won't earn money or be successful. And to a large degree, this is true.

But that doesn't mean you can neglect your relaxation. In fact, the harder you work, the more critical it becomes to relax deeply too. If you make the choice to work sixty hours a week and don't want to burn out in months, you need to be able to fast-charge your batteries in the few hours when you're not working. Here are a few tips that can help you do so:

  • Recognize your micro-work moments first. Where does work still tie into your post-work hours? Where does it still ping you?

  • At the end of your working day, create a todo list with work items for the next day. We often struggle to stop thinking about work because we're afraid we'll miss out or forget something important. Create a system that removes such fear.

  • Ritualize the end of the workday. Switch into different clothes, go for a run, meditate, go to the gym, etc. Have a set ritual that signifies the end of the workday.

  • Immerse yourself into something else. Dive deep into a painting you're working on, a game you love playing, a good movie, board games with your kids, etc. Don't relax half-heartedly because you feel guilty not working.

When you remove as many micro-work elements from your post-work life as possible, and when you understand the importance of relaxation, you'll become a less stressed and happier remote worker. You'll be less at risk of burning out and you'll able to work more efficiently and effectively. As a remote worker, this could be your superpower.

Discussion (2)

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cescquintero profile image
Francisco Quintero 🇨🇴 • Edited

We feel uncomfortable turning off work notifications

Yep, however one step forward is customizing Slack notifications hours. That's a great feature. In my case, I have it configured to only send notifications between my chosen working hours. It's a relief.

Recognize your micro-work moments first

This as well. We first should accept and identify we're overworking. After that, we can find solutions to get a better balance.

Great post.

EDIT: I've also set my stop working times to be a bit earlier than usual. For example, I finish my morning session half hour earlier. This way I get a bit more of rest and also force myself to be more productive in the previous working hours.

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Eduardo Costa

Great post!