A recent study conducted by Owl Labs has found that 1 in 5 people report working more during COVID-19. On average, remote employees worked an extra 26 hours each month (nearly an extra day every week).
The concept of “leave work at the door” hasn’t been possible for almost a year and a half now. We have brought our jobs into our homes. With that, are we still able to draw a line between our work and personal life? Even if it may be a blurry, not so linear line. If you have managed to maintain the precious work-life balance, congratulations. It’s no easy feat.
On the other hand, if you feel you need to work on this, here are some tried-and-tested suggestions to help. Of course, there is no one perfect solution that fits all. We encourage you to assess your situation and experiment until you find your balance.
1. Time Boundaries
Temporal boundaries or time boundaries are a key factor in ensuring that your workday doesn’t infinitely grow and spill into your personal time. The regular 9-to-5 workday is much harder to abide by in 2021. When we work from home, we don’t have the same tunnel vision as within an office setting.
We may have family members that need our care and attention. Or some might find it hard to focus for eight solid hours because we are surrounded by our bed, couch or the ever distracting TV. In this situation, it is advisable to find particular hours that are conducive to you. Discuss your choice of hours with your team. We may be working remotely, but we are not disconnected and it is vital to be considerate of our colleagues’ needs.
The study by Owl Labs also revealed that 74% of the participants agree that core hours are important. You can assign a set number of hours for meetings and time at the keyboard, and tailor your own schedule for the rest of your work hours.
Once you have identified a comfortable schedule, stick to it. When you are habituated to it, your brain automatically adjusts to your office hours. This will boost your productivity as well as save you from burnout.
2. Space Boundaries
Set up a designated office space to work from. This doesn’t necessarily mean a separate room in your home to function as an office. It would be amazing if you have that, but by no means is it essential. There are several ways to set space boundaries between your work and home.
Many people tend to work from their dining table or their couch. In this case, pick one particular spot on your couch or dining table. Set one designated seating area or a corner of your house as the office space. In the long run, your brain starts associating that particular space with work. You should avoid checking your phone, eating, or watching TV from the same spot.
For example, if you sit on the right side of the couch to video call colleagues, move to the other end to check your Instagram. This is based on the associative memory of our brain. We regularise a habit and teach our brain to form a connection between unrelated items.
The success factor behind any boundary is regularity. Boundaries are not set in stone, but if we constantly shift them, it shows that a particular framework is not ideal. And in that case, we should start looking for alternatives.
Not everyone is aware of your boundaries. Be open to discussing your routines as this helps to reinforce them.
3. Prioritize Your Tasks
When we work from home, it is very easy to lose focus. Even easier is falling into the “need to look productive” trap. Some associate productivity with the number of tasks finished, rather than the importance of the tasks. Others might tend to the most immediate tasks, displaying productivity in the short run. However, placing your attention on the important tasks will help you be successful in the long run.
Set your goals or vision at the beginning of every quarter, and prioritize tasks accordingly to achieve your goals. We recommend avoiding multitasking or working on too many projects at once. This will fragment your attention and reduce overall efficiency.
4. Lastly, Be Empathetic
It might sound simple but imagine following this mantra 24/7. For example, what would be your response when awaiting an overdue task? Empathy in this case is taking the time to reach out to the colleague responsible and understand the cause of the delay. It benefits both of you to discuss any setbacks before letting frustration or disappointment get the better of you.
Empathy must be a core value to all human beings. The incessant noise in the background during a call may be irritating. Your work hours might not match up. There are many hurdles to overcome when teams WFH. But we must realise that our teammates are people outside of the office – virtual or otherwise. Colleagues all log on and band together, in spite of challenges they may be faced with in their personal lives. Take time to learn about your team, discuss their obstacles if they are willing to do so, and maybe find a solution together.
It is equally important to extend the same empathy to yourself. Do not be overly critical or set unrealistic expectations. Know when to take a break, when to ask for help, and when to say no. It is okay to take care of yourself.
Work plays a really big role in our life, but work is not life. There is more to us than our task lists. Here’s to peace and balance, for you and your colleagues!