As more and more of us choose to work from home, or recently given the pandemic, are forced into working from home it becomes important that we maintain a good work from home life balance.
Additionally, with many companies feeling the pinch as the downturn following the Covid pandemic bites, pressure on employees to “perform” increases and this coupled with working from home creates immediate problems as well as long term issues for people.
So, how do we make sure we achieve a good work life balance in these difficult times and how do we cope with working from home?
The main thing is to set boundaries, whether they be physical, time, or activity based. These boundaries help ensure that you keep work and your personal time separate. So what are they and how do we go about setting them? Let’s look at them in turn….
When we speak about physical boundaries we are trying to keep our work and home life separate. This was a lot easier when we had to physically travel between the two but these days, part of the living room could be our office or it could be the kitchen table.
Therefore what we need to try to do is to make it a space where we can physically distance ourselves from once we have insisted work. Obviously, this is made easier if you are able to allocate a spare room to become the “office” however not everyone is so fortunate. Where possible, have a tray, a filing box or even a cardboard box that you can put papers that you are working on in and move them into a corner of the room., along with the laptop. The act of moving everything away becomes your “commute” and it closes off the day allowing you to enjoy your own time. The Worst thing you can do is leave your computer on and go back and check to see if any emails have come in!
if you do have a spare room, then it’s easier to close off once you are finished for the day. Make sure to switch the computer off, close the door and keep out until work the next day. If you have trouble switching off for the evening one tip you can use is to spend the last five minutes of each day writing out tomorrow’s “to do” list. This may save you from going through things in the evening and gives you a head start when you get started the next day.
It is important that you have dedicated work time, otherwise it becomes easy to slip into a cycle of non-productive “faffing” where you are constantly distracted by anything and everything. Where possible stick to the normal work hours you were used to. If you normally started at 8, then get up in plenty of time, get showered, dressed, exercise, have breakfast but be ready to start work bang on 8.
Make sure you schedule time away from your desk during the day too. It’s difficult to concentrate on something for anything longer than 30 minutes or so, so take regular breaks away from your desk, get up, do some stretches or make a coffee.
Ensure you take your lunch hour when at all possible. You know that if you were in the office you would have had to nip out for a sandwich, so don’t let it slip while working from home. Get away from your desk, have your lunch in another room, go for a walk, or even have a nap. All these things will help you disconnect from work for a while, and the walk will help ensure you get your Vitamin D and some exercise.
Come finishing time, again make sure that you finish up, make your “to do” list for the following day and switch off. As much as you might be tempted to keep working, it won’t be good for you, and if there are family in the house for them either.
A study by JB Olson-Buchanan and WR Boswell in the Journal of Vocational Behavior cited two types of workers, namely segmenters and integrators.
Segmenters were, as the name suggests, able to differentiate between work and their social life. So they kept the two separate, didn’t mix friends and colleagues and were able to switch off come 5 o’clock. integrators were more inclined to combine the two, blurring the lines between work and social. They were more inclined to work on into the evening, work colleagues would become friends, more difficult to shut off.
It is obviously easier for the segmenter to finish work at 5pm and not feel bad about it. Basically we need to try to be more like the segmenter to ensure that work and social do not become one. Things we can do to achieve this are ensuring that the lines are not blurred, that finishing time IS the finishing time and there is not an expectation to work on. Setting aside downtime even if it means putting it into your diary is important, and make sure you ensure that it is set as “do not disturb” time.
One aspect of modern life we seem to have accepted is being contacted outwith work hours on our phones. To avoid work calling your personal number set up an App such as Phoner which gives you another number to set up on your phone. That way you can give work your phoner number as a contact and you are more in control of when you answer as well as knowing that they do not have your real personal phone number.
It is a fact that the last year with lock down and all that it has brought, has been a wake up call for employers as much as for employees. The trust that may not have been there a year ago has been built up with people now being trusted to get on with jobs while working from home, in less than ideal circumstances. It is clear that even after this pandemic is over, that a return to 100% office based work is not an option. People have discovered that working from home suits them better, whether that be wholly WFH or a blend of office based and WFH. The most important part is that employees take care of themselves and don’t burn out.
Ensuring that there are clear boundaries between work and home life is more important than ever as the lines become more blurred. There does have to be a balance between work and life and it is up to us all to ensure that the scales do not tip in favor one way or the other.
I hope that you found this article useful. Do you currently work from home? What do you do to ensure that there is a happy balance between work and life? Do you find it difficult? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if there is anything I can do to help please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me either in the comments or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.