After almost eight years of full-time remote work, I’ve experienced my fair share of ups and downs working alone and from home. And for me, the perks of remote work are vast. I have the freedom to set my own schedule, get to work with teams across the globe, and most days, my pajamas are my work uniform.
But there are downsides to remote work, too—like the isolation and loneliness that come with it. The year 2020 saw a massive uptick in professionals using the remote-work model, so I know I’m not alone in feeling both sides of this coin. As commutes were replaced with earlier logins and late evening emails, data shows the pandemic made the average remote workday an hour longer compared to those conducted in-office.
Without a definitive, physical boundary between work and personal life, it’s become more difficult than ever before for professionals (myself included) to strike the right balance. Research from a 2020 TELUS International survey found four out of five workers struggle with shutting down for the night, while almost half of employees feel less mentally healthy while working from home.
Along with the mental health concerns that come with remote work, there’s also the issue of lacking connectivity among team members. How can remote workers feel like an engaged member of a company’s team and overarching culture when there is little or no in-person interaction?
This is especially apparent when milestones or benchmarks are achieved; there’s no happy hour to celebrate a recent promotion or pats on the back from your manager for a job well done. It’s disheartening to complete a big project or to pass a major milestone and have no one there to cheer you on. Without some external validation, it’s easy to feel disconnected from your work or to lose motivation. That’s why it’s important to take celebrating your work accomplishments into your own hands. I’ve implemented this in my own remote work career, and it’s made a world of difference.
Here are some tips for remote-work celebrations that make working alone and from home a little less isolating.
Planning your own annual celebration
Every year, I try to do something special to celebrate another year of successful remote work, as benchmarks so often slip by unnoticed when you’re a team of one working from home.
With my eight-year remote work anniversary coming up, I decided to celebrate with a spa day at the Four Seasons Spa in St. Louis. For me, a day of pampering and relaxation was a major reward for week after week of hard work, and the services offered here were just what I needed. I spent the day in the 12,000-square-foot facility enjoying the Spa Day package, detoxing in the steam room, and reading quietly in the relaxation space with a private lunch.
As hard as it was to leave work behind for a day when my to-do list was full, making time to celebrate this milestone was important to me. Moreover, returning to work mentally and physically refreshed, relaxed, and motivated was well worth it.
If a spa day isn’t your thing, choose a different activity that brings you happiness. Your celebration is yours to design. Think about what would be a compelling reward for you and keep these points in mind as you plan.
- Activities. Do you want a day at the beach? A weekend hike? It may sound obvious but it will help you prioritize and plan if you’re able to nail down a short list of possibilities that sound exciting.
- Budget. Establish a spending cap so your celebration doesn’t cause financial stress. You could also choose a budget based on the milestone—after getting a promotion or new client, for example.
- Time frame. How long do you want to be away as you celebrate? This year, I kept the celebration to one day, but you could make a long weekend out of it or tack on a few days and turn it into a writing retreat.
- Location. How long will it take to get to your destination? I picked a spot within driving distance to keep things budget friendly and to avoid too much travel time.
- Number of travel pals. Do you want time to yourself, or a group activity? Solo was the way to go for me this year after a busy few weeks of meetings, but another option would be to pick an activity to do with your partner, family member, or a close work friend as a way to celebrate together.
How to celebrate your accomplishments on a smaller scale
Keep in mind that celebrating doesn’t have to be as extravagant as a spa day. Here are some best practices to create a remote work celebration routine on a smaller scale:
- Practice savoring. When you complete a difficult task or wrap up a project, enjoy a few moments away from your screen. Try to savor the moment while you’re sipping your afternoon coffee or taking your dog for a walk. When you try to fully enjoy your positive experiences and practice savoring, you start to appreciate life’s small pleasures, promoting your mental health and well-being.
- Set up lunches and coffee dates. Even before the pandemic, 60% of Americans reported feeling “lonely, left out, poorly understood, or lacking companionship.” Working from home doesn’t have to be this way. Set up regular lunch or coffee dates with colleagues and friends where you can celebrate each other’s wins and encourage each other through the challenges.
- Find an accountability partner. It’s important to have an accountability partner who can check in on you and keep you aware of when you’re showing signs of burnout. When the red flags pop up, give yourself permission to step away and take a break.
- Carve breaks into your day. Working too hard for too long is a recipe for disaster. “Solopreneurs,” or independent founders and creators, don’t have an overarching supervisor or boss figure to remind them to take time off from time to time, so it’s easy to slip into the “always on” mentality. Make sure you’re not overdoing it. Give yourself some space to take breaks throughout the day. You need a mental reset so you can come back fresh and ready to go.
Even with all the perks of remote work, working from home brings a set of challenges for solopreneurs and remote employees alike. Celebrate your accomplishments on a regular basis throughout the week, month, and year to help reignite your motivation and protect yourself from feeling resentful or burnt out at work.
Kaleigh Moore is a writer and consultant for companies in the SaaS industry.