While the majority of people are “back at work”, I am speaking to many clients who are still working from home. For the most part, the novelty and perks of working from home are starting to wear off, and the reality of trying to balance work and their personal lives is setting in.
Even before lockdown, research showed that the productivity of remote workers increased by about 10% – 30%. That’s due to the advantage of increased freedom and flexibility, the absence of commuting and fewer interruptions. However, as a result, remote employees are averaging longer days than co-workers situated at the office.
So it’s ironic – but not unexpected – that despite the appeal of working from home, I am hearing more and more complaints. People are are battling to balance their work and home life when work takes place from home.
Firstly, the challenge is that you never really leave the office. There’s also the added pressure to ensure your colleagues can see you are working and not slacking off on the couch. Retrenchments and salary sacrifices have resulted in a need to prove your worth to employers and to clients, so you make yourself accessible to respond to communication 24/7. Furthermore, because you are at home, your family thinks you are available to take a break to attend to household chores or spend time with the kids during work hours. Everyone wants a piece of you.
But it’s not the location of your work that’s the problem. It’s the lack of boundaries, self management skills and discipline that result in a failure to balance your work and home life.
As a workaholic, and a business and executive coach who works from a home-office, I can identify with these challenges and will share some tips to help maintain a work-home balance. (Some of which I admittedly am still trying to implement myself!)
Keep office hours
You are still doing the same work, but in a different space. Yes, take advantage of the flexibility you have, but ensure that you work the same number of hours you would have worked if you were at the office. Set a “stop time”, use an alarm or tell your kids you’ll throw a ball with them after work… they will nag you to make sure you stop at a certain time!
Fake a commute
For many, the commute to and from work is a transition time to clear your head and prepare for the next part of the day. You plan your to-do list, catch up on the news, etc on your way to work. On the way home, you start switching off, chat to a friend, plan what you’ll have for dinner, etc. When you work from home, the lack of a commute forces you to jump from one role to another within seconds. Plan a “commute” or a ritual to signal the beginning and end of the work day. Some go so far as to drive around the block. Some change from their work clothes into something more comfortable at the end of a day. Pour yourself a glass of wine or put some music on. Do something that signals you have “arrived” at home and left work.
For many people, working remotely is a temporary situation. There is often not a dedicated workspace in the house for this purpose. As a result, people are working at their dining room tables, in the bedroom or lounge. When your work is staring at you, you may be tempted to “just quickly read that report” or “glance at that email” or feel guilty that you haven’t finished a few things on your list. Out of sight is out of mind. If you are working in an open space at home, and can’t “close the door”, find a way to pack your things away at night, and restore your home to a personal space.
It’s not only work hours that requires discipline and boundaries. It’s the technology and communication invasion that often tips the work-home balance. Although being accessible is a wonderful trait, it can lead to abuse. Turn off notifications so you are not alerted to new messages and emails after hours. Give yourself, your family, your friends, pets and home the same respect that you give your work. Let your colleagues, clients and suppliers know that you are not available after hours.
Personal to-do list
Often people work because they have nothing better to do. If you want to strike a balance between work and your personal life, create a “to-do” list for yourself that has nothing to do with your business. Plan what you intend to do “after work” each day. It might be some DIY at home, playing with the kids, watching that Netflix movie. You could go for a run, try a new recipe for dinner, catch up with family and friends. When you have personal activities planned and diarised, it’s much easier to call it a day and ignore the pings on your phone.
Most companies have less work and are paying their employees less, yet so many people are working longer hours. When you fully emerge from lockdown and return to 100% productivity and capacity, you will need to be firing on all cylinders and can’t afford to be burnt out.
Be kind to yourself. Set boundaries for yourself and others to ensure you balance your work and personal life during this trying time. How are you coping? We’d love to hear from you
Have a great weekend.