Just because you’re working from home while we practice physical distancing, doesn’t make you can’t take some time off. Now more than ever, the lines between work life and personal life have become blurred. With the uniquely stressful and challenging time we’re in, setting aside time to unplug from work is important.
Although #wfh life is known to bring greater job satisfaction, research also finds that when working from home, most of us are more likely to go beyond normal hours and put in more effort than is required, usually in an attempt to appear more productive.
So how do you disconnect when you lack the physical separation of leaving the office behind? Here are some tips and actions you can take to work from home without losing work-life balance.
Set a schedule
By setting a work schedule for yourself, you can create boundaries for yourself. Block off time in your calendar daily, so when you start your day you have a clear idea of what you need to get done. If you have the flexibility to shift your hours to suit your lifestyle and/or when you’re most productive, take advantage of that!
Prioritize what matters
In order to create work-life balance, you need to prioritize what’s important to you. If you find that you need to alter work obligations at certain times in order to focus on personal priorities (e.g. homeschooling your kids or running an errand), make sure to communicate this to your coworkers ahead of time.
Many are feeling the pressure to be available for work, meetings, and emails anytime now that they’re at home, but by establishing reasonable expectations, you can spend time on personal aspects of your life without feeling stressed that you “should” be online working. Remember, when you have time to focus on the things that matter most to you, you’ll be more motivated, happier, and more productive overall at work.
Take breaks during the day
We’ve gone from the distractions of the office – think coffee breaks and unnecessary meetings – to distractions in the house, like kids, pets, and our bed. No matter your situation, taking a few “power breaks” throughout the day can help you avoid fatigue and improve your overall focus which will likely help you get more done during your allotted work hours.
Whether it’s a ten-minute workout or taking your dog for a walk, find ways to take breaks from work during the day. If you step away from your computer each afternoon for a walk or plan to take a day off to unplug and recharge, share this with your coworkers so they are aware – it might help them to prioritize their well-being too.
Prompt yourself to wrap up
Since you no longer have the visual cue of co-workers leaving the office to signal the workday is coming to an end, find a way to prompt yourself. Even if it’s as simple as setting an alarm on your phone half an hour before you should wrap up for the day, creating a prompt is a great way to get you into the process and mindset of ending the workday.
Plan the next day
Sometimes, we end up working longer than normal because we have tons of “to-do’s” running through our minds. To avoid this, end each day by planning the next one. While it’s ideal to set out your priorities for the week ahead of time, it’s normal for things to come up and take you off track. Take five minutes at the end of your day to define your top three priorities for the following day. This will help give you the peace of mind that your most important projects are captured, which will hopefully allow you to relax!
Have a transition ritual
Create a practice that helps you change gears and transition from work to personal downtime. That could be something as simple as changing your outfit, doing a workout, making that list of “to-do’s” for the next day, or cleaning up your workspace. Alternatively, try turning your computer fully off, to help you power down. The key is to create some sort of barrier to make you think twice before doing any work during your non-work hours.
Create accountability for yourself
If you’re finding it hard to transition from work to downtime, make commitments that force you to end work on time. For example, that could be a virtual happy hour with friends, playing board games with your spouse and kids, or making dinner.
The bottom line:
While these strategies may seem simple, how often do we actually implement them? While you may feel like you need to be working insane hours to prove your productivity, difficulty managing stress has been linked to burnout, physical health problems, and mental health problems.
Although the steps for achieving work-life balance are different for everyone, the underlying goal is the same: to create a structure in your life that allows you to enjoy working, while optimizing your long-term health and happiness.