Many of us are still working from home. A few are once again getting used to going to the office 5 days a week. Either way, we are re-learning how to balance our personal life and work.
Here’s what I have learned about work and life balance from the time I began working at home –
It’s not going to be easy, accept it.
All the distractions (read – pets, children, a mother whose cooking can keep Corona at bay, and the overly enthusiastic SO) are at home.
It’s going to be difficult, but not impossible to work from home.
Those who are just beginning their daily commute to and from office again, the initial days of separation are going to take a toll on your mental wellbeing, and that’s completely understandable.
Nonetheless, no one can say for certain which is better – working remotely forever or the traditional office infrastructure that separates the home from work!
It’s a time of uncertainty and a time of change. So we need to remain mentally strong, flexible and adapting.
In short, adapting to a new work environment, whether at home or a fear-stricken workspace is going to take some time and effort. Don’t freak out. Take a deep breath when work and personal life seem too overwhelming.
Do what it takes to keep your mental agility – a round of online pool at the end of a long workday, a walk around the block with your pooch, building Lego Deathstars and Starships with your little one, or meditating for 10 hours to white noise!
It’s time for lists and listicles
It’s time to prioritize. I have found a semblance of balance in my personal and work life by categorizing everything on my to-do list into 4 sections –
- High priority – you have to do it right now! It can include reviewing yesterday’s team progress or publishing an article.
- Important but not urgent – these include tasks that help you achieve professional and personal goals. Filling out appraisal forms, updating your job sheet, or finishing the quiz for certification are all important tasks.
- Very urgent but not important – team meetings (that could be emails), receiving phone calls, or addressing complaints/demands from co-workers can be urgent, but somewhat, unimportant. These aren’t important for your work life because they don’t help you achieve any goals directly.
- It can wait – checking your personal FB and Instagram accounts sadly fall in this category. You can easily do these after you are done with work or during a much-needed break.
I'll be honest here, dear readers. Of course, this categorization is very smart and very effective –because I have borrowed it from Eisenhower, the 34th President of the US.
Plan your day according to your habits
Are you a morning person? Then keep all important and urgent work for the mornings. Anything that demands 100% of your focus and energy should find its way to the top of your priority list in the morning.
Phone calls, e-meetings, and real-life meetings not only take longer, but they can also be very distracting. Plan your meetings and calls so they don't interrupt your morning workflow.
I tend to keep my client and team meetings at the end of the day. We get to evaluate the day's progress and give a precise report to our clients.
Take a break
While working at the office you definitely took a coffee break and a lunch break, so why not do the same at home?
Take a short coffee break after you finish your first important and urgent task.
Once you finish almost half of the day’s workload, take a lunch break AWAY from your home workspace.
You are at home. Take full advantage of the fact. During the break spend time with your children and/or pets. Water your plants. Take a hot bath. All the while playing your favourite tracks in the background.
It will re-energize you more than the usual office break, and I guarantee it!
Set your work hours
Your home workspace should be free from intrusions. Well, it’s easy to say, but almost impossible when your child wants help with their Zoom class or your pup makes those cute huge eyes at you.
Nonetheless, set fixed hours for work. It can be from 10 am to 6 pm or 11 am to 8 pm.
Make sure you coordinate with your team and set these work hours. If you work with a team, there's no point in going online at 7 am, when none of your teammates is available before 10 am!
Let your clients know that you will be available at a certain time, just like those good old office days. Unless of course, you want to work till past midnight every day.
Make a long-term time-management plan
Your time is valuable and you shouldn’t spend your time working and with your clients only. Your friends and family need you, even in the times of social distancing.
Make long-term plans that include family events – anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays.
Yes. I know how difficult sticking to these plans can be at times, especially, when you have clients or a boss who wants their work done yesterday. But, creating a timeline always helps.
Create your own workspace
Get an ergonomic chair, a comfortable mouse pad, and keyboard, or a laptop that you don’t have to share.
Working from home can become a treat if you organize your work desk. Get rid of the clutter absolute Marie Kondo style. Get rid of anything and everything that does not bring you joy!
Get at least one miniature plant (succulent) for your work desk. Get organizers that can keep your sticky notes, pens, pencils, staples, and notepads in place.
Brighten up your workspace with hidden LEDs.
Make the space attractive and positive. You will see how easy it becomes to enjoy your days working from home!
Take that vacation
Working from home is already like a vacation. Right? WRONG!
It can be just as stressful as working from a designated office space if not more.
When we are at home, our parents, spouse and other family members begin expecting more. We have to take care of the household (which includes a fair share of cooking and cleaning, thanks to the social distancing that’s keeping our housekeepers away!), being emotionally and physically present at almost all times.
It's just more work than we typically do even when travelling to the office every day.
So, yes, you deserve that vacation right now more than ever.
Do nothing! Thanks to the COVID-19 situation, travelling is a far-fetched dream. Use your vacation days to watch your favourite movies, spend time with your loved ones, and doing things that really matter to you.
Oh right…taking time off from work to spend time on social media, does not count as vacation.
Whether it’s your first time working from home or you are trying to adjust to your daily commute once again, the changing socio-economic situations in the country are bound to be stressful.
Apart from taking a deep breath every morning and saying "I can do this" out loud to yourself, you should take a meagre 5-minutes to meditate on whatever is valuable in your life. Once you have your life priorities sorted out, striking that work-life balance won't be as difficult as you think it is right now.