It has always been a challenge for many workers to keep a good work/life balance, even when working in an office that they could walk away from at the end of the day. But it may be even tougher to keep that balance when working from home.
Those of us who’ve worked from home for years will tell you that it involves a significant learning curve at the outset. Finding and keeping a balance takes awareness, intention, scheduling and some discipline.
A recent Bloomberg article cited surveys which revealed that during our recent shelter-at-home period, some people are working more hours now that they’re working from home than they did when working from an office. Here are some of the places these additional hours are coming from – any sound familiar?
Time people had spent commuting has now been filled in with work.
People are feeling pressured to demonstrate that they are, in fact, working.
Accessibility to the always-on world of technology that’s at their fingertips – and in their dining rooms
Spreading their work over the day, working both earlier and later hours as they juggle child care, chores, and keeping families fed and cared for
Work sometimes seems to get entangled with other aspects of life and it can all start to run together. Those same surveys show that many at-home workers are looking forward to getting back to the office where there is a clear division.
As First Lady Michelle Obama said, “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” There are steps you can take to maintain both a work/life balance and your sanity.
A good first step is defining what “balance” means for you – it’s not the same for everyone. Help transform your own sense of balance into reality by making it visual. Take time to plan your daily and weekly calendar and schedule both work and “life” activities. For example, block out time for work and meetings, but also schedule lunch, chores, errands, child care, exercise, family time, solitude and sleep.
Some other great work-from-home balancing hacks include:
Find structured activities for your children so that you can have some uninterrupted work time. Let them know it will allow you to give them your full attention when it’s “their” time instead of being pulled away by work.
Set up your work space away from your primary living areas if possible
Develop some guidelines about when your team communicates with each other and/or when they are expected to respond – it will help to create an environment that is conducive to each person doing their best work.
Look for opportunities to accomplish work more efficiently or effectively and encourage your team to do the same. You may discover ways to improve how work happens even when you return to the office.
No matter how much you love your work, it’s hard to do it well when you don’t take care of yourself or when you’re distracted by personal issues that you’ve not had the opportunity to address. By understanding what balance means to you and determining what needs to happen to attain and sustain that balance, you’ll find you can stick with a plan that better serves you, your work, and the people in your life. Maintaining a good work/life balance IS possible. It can even benefit you long after you’ve returned to the office – or it will get you poised for a more enjoyable and sustainable work-from-home situation moving forward.