5 Best Practices When Working From Home for Better Work-Life Balance
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that millions of people around the world are working from home. Telecommuting has become the norm, and it is here to stay. Some report higher productivity when working from home. There is a flip side, too, though, to working remotely. Remote workers are more likely to experience burnout, with more than 50% likely to work longer hours. Burnout happens when the work-life balance goes awry, which can lead to physical and mental health issues. How do you strike a healthy work-life balance when working remotely?
When working remotely, switching off your laptop after your official workday is easier said than done. This research says just as much. Here are 5 actionable tips that will help you separate your work life from your personal life for better physical and mental health.
1. Create a separate work area
Creating separate areas for work and play helps you draw the line between when you are working and when you are taking time off. When you are working from home, it can go either way – you might find it difficult to find the motivation to work. After all, there is nobody watching you and holding you accountable, as long as you are meeting your deadlines. Or, you could constantly bring your work to the dinner table or even to your bed.
Segregating areas can help you move in and out of work mode and chill mode easily. Even if you live in a studio apartment by yourself, create a dedicated work corner. Put a desk with a comfy chair and your basic office stationery. Home of Cozy has exhaustive guides to home and office furniture, so it becomes easy for you to choose the best value buy.
When you routinely sit down to work in that corner, your brain automatically knows when it’s time to work and when it’s time to switch off.
2. Set a routine
Before working remotely became the norm, most of you commuted to an office space. Whether it was via public transport or driving your own car, there was a gap between when you left home and when you sat down for work. It holds true even for people who live a block away from their company office.
When you are working from home, it’s easy to rush from bed straight to your work corner. Doing so takes away from personal time. When it becomes an everyday occurrence, it hampers your work-life balance. Create an everyday routine to replicate that buffer you got when you were commuting to your office.
Taking a walk outside when you first wake up, listening to your favorite podcast, or even keeping an hour away only for breakfast are all ways to gradually move into your workday.
3. Set boundaries
When you are living with someone and working from home, it is important to set boundaries. Very often, you can get sucked into a household chore, which eats into your work time. You compensate for that loss by working a little later than usual. Before you know it, you are answering emails from your bed late at night and having marathon work calls at the dinner table. Your work-life balance goes for a toss.
Set boundaries with both factions – your boss or clients and your family and friends. For instance, make a rule that you will not attend any work calls after 8 pm. Communicate it clearly to your manager and stick to it. Similarly, if you are living with your parents, tell them you are off-limits during certain hours of the day. For some people, a flexible schedule might be more conducive. People with kids might prefer to keep a loose routine and an overall commitment to work a set number of hours every day. Whatever rules you make for yourself, make sure you communicate those to the people around you. And learn to say no.
4. Schedule times to check emails
Almost all of us have a smartphone today. We can check emails on the go. It is very easy to get sucked into responding to emails after your workday. Restrict refreshing your inbox to twice a day at specific times. The beginning of your workday and somewhere in the latter half of the day are good slots to reserve for checking and responding to emails.
Disable email push notifications on your phone. Configure your Do Not Disturb settings such that you only get notifications for incoming calls and texts.
5. Take frequent breaks
When you are working from an office, you probably get off your chair to go to the water cooler once every couple of hours. You gossip with your colleagues a little, go for a smoke, and take a break from screen time. At home, be mindful about punctuating your day with small breaks. Get up from your work desk every hour just to stretch. Take a 30-minute break and get a sandwich for lunch from your neighborhood Deli.
Create a water-cooler corner at your home and use this space to interact with others around you. Maybe you can use this time to have a quick chat with your kid before you get back to work. Taking small breaks helps you retain focus, which translates to better productivity. The Pomodoro technique works on the same principle.
Besides all of that, use technology for better time management. Google Calendar for blocking meeting times and Trello for tracking ongoing projects are two very effective time management tools.