Monday 12 October 2020

How to maintain a better work-life balance when working from home

Working from home can be a double edged sword. Sure, you no longer have the commute or need to set your alarm at stupid o'clock any more, but it can also be really lonely. Whilst you can still chat away to your heart's content on Whatsapp or Slack with your colleagues, it's just not the same as being face-to-face. Working from home once or twice a week can be respite from the commute, but for an extended period of time like it has been with the COVID-19 outbreak, it can be increasingly hard. You miss work lunches. You miss Fridays in the pub. There are so many things you want to see and do, but are advised not to. You are home so much that the work-life balance is starting to blur around the edges and you no longer have that separation or discipline. So how do you get out of a funk like this? Try following these simple pointers to help promote a healthy work-life balance when working from home.

Tips for a better work-life balance when working from home

Designate a specific working zone

Whilst it may be tempting to take your laptop into the main living area with the TV on in the background, don't do it. Go hole yourself away in a separate room where you usually wouldn't be. At the end of the working day, remove work emails and alerts from your phone (if applicable), close the doors on the space you worked in, and walk away. This is now your time.

Come up with a plan for co-working arrangements

If you live with a partner, friends or family, what happens if you only have one home office space? Should you both work in the same room? Everybody works differently so it's best to talk this through with your partner / friends / family and be honest wth each other. Here we have a study with a long desk which is perfect for two people working alongside each other, however due to the nature of my partner's work (noisy and on video call constantly), it just wouldn't work. For me to perform at my best, I have to put myself in another room, on another floor. If you have children and they have gone back to school, plan a rota of who is picking up from school on which days and if pre-school, come up with a rota for childcare so you can avoid video call interruptions of this scale and hilarity.  

Don't forget to take breaks

I've heard so many stories of people forgetting to take lunch breaks when they work from home, or only grabbing a quick bite to eat. It can be so easy to lose track of time when you are deep in a task. Look after yourself and have a proper nutritional lunch and give yourself the full hour. Besides lunch, get up every so often to walk around and grab some water or a cup of tea. Stay hydrated and keep your body and mind active. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been stuck on something, had a break and a quick walk away from my desk, and then the solution has come to me instantly.  

Do your hours - nothing more, nothing less

This kind of falls in-line with the previous point. Yes, have breaks and a full hour for lunch, but at the same time, don't abuse the system and take an extended lunch break because 'no one can see me'. Whilst a longer lunch is heavenly, it can make it harder to get back into the swing of things, resulting in less motivation and productivity. At the same time, don't overdo it at home or do more hours than you are paid. I am incredibly guilty of this and have been known to start work at 8-something rather than 9.30am and then work past 5.30pm in the past. Finish on time and avoid working late into the night so you get the time you are entitled to in order to unwind properly before starting all over again the next day.

Make sure you have the right access

Nothing sucks more than working from home and discovering that you don't have the right access / permissions / equipment. This in itself will set you back. Make sure you have everything in place ready ahead of working from home.

Get dressed

Whilst it's incredibly tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day, avoid doing this to better your work-life balance. The act of getting dressed sets you up ready for the day and puts you in the right mindset. When the working day is over, go and get changed. Change into either looser, more comfortable clothing like joggers, or your pyjamas. This will help reinforce a sense of routine that work is done for the day and now it's you time.

Get up at a reasonable time

Whilst it's tempting to leave the alarm off completely or set it just before your official start time, don't do it. Logging onto work when you've just woken up isn't the one. If something complex comes in first thing that requires serious attention, imagine the headache that will come your way if you're not ready. When I work from home I usually allow myself an extra hour in bed - so my alarm is set for 7am rather than 6am - as I no longer have the commute. It is so important to have enough time to wake up fully and for much needed you time. Other than the essentials of showering and getting dressed, make sure you give yourself some quality time. Read the newspaper. Sit down and have a proper breakfast. Do a sudoku or morning yoga. Go for a run. Whatever you choose to do, get yourself into a routine and in no time at all, it will come naturally to you.

Try and get outside if you can

This stems from my point earlier about how sometimes taking a break and going for a walk can sometimes encourage new ideas. You don't even have to go far. Go down the road or around the corner. Spend some time in the garden (if you have one). Fresh air can be so invigorating and always perks me up if I'm having a bad mental health day.

The chair you use is so important

Don't let a poor chair be the cause of an early onset of back problems. If you are going to be working from home a lot (particularly with the COVID-19 outbreak), it's wise to invest in a decent chair. We have one decent work-from-home chair in the office which my partner uses, but if I'm home I find myself hopping about from chair to chair as the dining room chairs are only comfortable for so long. If you feel an ache in your back, act on it quickly and don't just 'put up with it'. Change your location and try another chair. Use extra cushions to support your back. If budget allows, order yourself an ergonomic chair or executive chair with padding and a fully supported back (I recently ordered myself this one and it's an absolute dream!). Some companies have a working from home allowance and can provision you with a chair and desk (or budget for them), so it's definitely worth asking around.

Give your day some structure

Start each day with a quick brainstorm of what needs to be done that day and create youself a To Do list. There is nothing more satisfying than ticking things off a To Do list (or is that just me?). Plus if your boss is checking up on you making sure you are actually working, you can come back with a whole host of things you've completed and be smug as. When you approach the end of your working day, if there is anything outstanding or to be rolled over to the next day, note it all down. This is beneficial in two ways. First, it's a weight off your mind and allows you to fully switch off that evening and not think about work. Secondly it means you have the makings of tomorrow's to do list already forming itself (WIN).

Do you have a good work-life balance when working from home?

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Image credit: Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

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