Achieving a good work-life balance while working from home can be challenging. It takes careful thought and planning. Even more so when everyone has suddenly become a remote worker due to coronavirus.
When we think of work-life balance, we often think of both being in perfect harmony, with equal hours spent on both sides. However, a view this literal is unrealistic and bad for our mental health. It will only leave you feeling incredibly overwhelmed and unaccomplished. We need to redefine work-life balance while working from home.
The first thing you need to realise is that work-life balance while working from home is more of a juggle or a blending of both aspects of our life. It will look different for each of us and could change on a daily basis. It will contrast drastically if you are single, married, or have kids at home all day.
It varies so much between us because we lead such individual lives, and we all have our own unique priorities. And that’s ok! We hope these tips to find your work-life balance while working from home can help.
1. Let go of perfection
We should always strive for excellence instead of perfection, this is even more important when striking a work-life balance while working from home. You will probably not have everything you need to do your job exactly as you would in the office. You won’t have all your files, printer, scanner or potentially even the fax machine you only use once a month. Its time to adapt and do the best you can with what you have available. A small mental shift that makes a large difference.
When you are available all the time, your workday never ends. You need those times when you shut off. Give yourself a chance to separate from work. It can be as simple as not checking email in the evening or on the weekend. Allow yourself moments of calm instead of rushing to complete every task.
Often the first to go when our routine is disrupted in such a big way, exercise should be the first thing we make time for. It reduces stress, pumps up endorphins, and lifts your mood. Don’t have an hour to lift weights? Start with a 15-minute yoga stretch. It will give you the same benefits (on a smaller scale) with the added sense of accomplishment and self-care.
Understandably when gyms and sports facilities are closed, it can be hard to find ways to exercise. Thankfully many trainers and gyms are offering online classes, or search YouTube for free classes. Exercise is an excellent way to achieve work-life balance while working from home.
4. Get rid of time wasters – both activities and people
If it doesn’t reflect your true priorities, put it on your not-to-do list. Draw boundaries. Politely excuse yourself from conference calls that you don’t need to be part of. It is not selfish to devote your attention to activities that are the best use of your time.
5. Eat a proper lunch
While eating snacks all day while a step away from your fridge sounds amazing, it does nothing for your productivity or sense of work-life balance while working from home. At work we may be more compelled to take a lunch break when your coworkers remind you to – this doesn’t happen at home.
Make sure to set aside time in your day to take a proper break. Set a calendar or phone reminder. Even better do a virtual lunch break with your team so you can connect with each other and get a proper time-out.
6. “Go home” on time
It can be hard to get up and walk away when you no longer worry about getting stuck in traffic or picking children up on time. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have a “go home” mentality. It means, decide what time you finish up for the day, and when the clock gets there stop working and leave your workspace.
Judge your productivity by your results, not the hours you put in – especially right now. Work-life balance while working at home is all about creating a new normal and sticking to it instead of working away until the wee hours. You will be much more efficient with the extra sleep anyway.
7. Build transitions into and out of work
Your commute not only gets you to and from work but also gives your brain time to prepare for your day and decompress after. Just because you don’t have that commute, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an equivalent routine to ease into and out of your day.
We often take for granted our commute time and just wish we could get there faster. But we rarely identify the opportunity it gives us to mentally prepare. You are generally not signing off on a major project and going straight to making dinner. Give your brain time to hit the reset button. Have a signal at the beginning and end of your day to serve as a buffer.
If you listen to the radio or read, do the same. Or spend some extra time with a pet. Get in some exercise to equal your walk to work by walking around the block for an equal amount of time. For your evening commute, do it in reverse.
8. Don’t forget to socialise
When the whole office starts working from home, you get cut off from a lot of casual daily interactions. If you’re not used to working alone this can make you feel lonely. Those random social interactions help break up your day and make it feel unique, while isolation can make every day feel like Groundhog Day but one where all we are doing is working.
Combat this by talking to your work colleagues a couple of times throughout the day. Have a video coffee break, ask what they did on the weekend, catch up on their family news, reach out and share that joke or meme, or just discuss the shows your binge-watching. If you normally talk to them about a specific topic, keep it up.
These little interactions go a long way to maintain your work-life balance when working from home.
9. Don’t sweat the small stuff
As with every new undertaking, you will not be perfect the first time around. Give yourself a break. There isn’t one tried and true rule to finding work-life balance, especially in this ever-changing situation. In fact, how you approach it will be as individual as you are.
No matter what this balancing act looks like, the most important part is that it works for both you and your family. If both your life and work are getting the attention they deserve, whatever you are doing is right for you.
Your definition of work-life balance while working from home is up to you
It might be more of a work-life juggle – sending emails while your kids do crafts or having a video call with the team in Singapore while you make dinner. You are fitting things in where they can, all while making sure it gets done the best way you can.
Or more of a work-life blend – you’re already used to running a business out of your home, potentially with your partner, or with extended family. Your workday may already never have a hard end as your family and business life are intermingled. And have potentially gotten more intermingled if you are self-isolating together.
Maybe you can still work-life segment – separating one from each other and ‘never the twain shall meet’. From 8-5 you are all work with no distractions, but after you are able to shut off and walk away.
However you are dealing with managing your work-life balance while working from home will be unique to you. It can be really difficult even for those of us used to it. Be kind to yourself.