It’s mid-August 2020 and here we are, at home, working, resting, and attempting to relax under one roof. Any semblance of a line between work and not-work has blurred.
We can’t control what our people do in the privacy of their own homes, in front of the blue light of their screens, but we can give them the tools to lead healthier, happier lives. These tips are for you and your people, to help guide you through troubling times and come out productive and refreshed.
- What work-life balance actually means
- Six tips for WFH WLB
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance refers to the time an individual allocates to work compared to the rest of life such as family, friends, personal interests and so on. Many of us struggle to achieve this at the best of times: a recent survey revealed that 60% of people work longer hours than they want and 24% say it’s hard to relax and not think about work. A poor work-life balance can lead to stress, depression, and burnout, with 22% saying their job exhausts them and 22% feeling under excessive work pressure.
Lockdown has thrown everyone’s work-life balance off-kilter and you need to get it back on an even keel. All of us—single people, those living with their parents, and folks with housemates, couples, and families—will find defining their own work-life balance to be a personal, important experience.
Six tips for maintaining work-life balance
1. Plan ahead
Don’t expect to slip into a slick new routine. Be organized and intentional and it will make your working week much easier. To get into a new WLB groove, we suggest:
- Designating days as “meeting days” or “heads-down” days to minimize context switching—and the stress that comes with it
- Try and schedule “walk-and-talks” or meetings that you don’t need to take at your computer, so you can get in some stretching
- Blocking off an hour on your schedule for lunch every day. Lunch breaks don’t have to be spent only eating—you can read, go for a walk, or just be.
- Make a to-do list, either on actual paper or using an app like TeuxDeux, and use it to measure your accomplishments throughout the day. Ahhh, the sweet, sweet feeling of ticking a box.
2. Stick to a routine
A schedule creates boundaries that define your working day. You don’t have to stick to regular office hours, but if you’re not careful you’ll be dipping in and out of work 24/7.
Experiment with what works for you and your household. Many organizations honor flexible work schedules while working from home, so take advantage if you can!
3. Maximize your outdoor time
Spend some time outside every day to…
- improve your memory
- concentrate better
- reduce the risk of asthma, allergies, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
- And, apparently, outdoor time makes your vision better. Cool fact.
4. Switch off
It’s hard not to be tempted to finish off a few things in the evening. There are, however, simple ways to disconnect. You used to clock off at a set time and travel home from work—now you need another evening ritual:
- The food rule: Use dinner as a natural cut-off point—and, please please, do not eat at your computer!
- Hide your tech: If you can’t see your work laptop and phone, you’re much less likely to reach for them. Sign off and stow your electronics in the bulkhead.
- Schedule a social call: If you arrange a call with your mom at 5 pm, for example, this gives you a deadline to finish your work tasks. A chat with family or friends will quickly switch your brain from work to play mode.
- Get moving: Apart from the obvious physical health benefits, recent studies have also found that exercise lifts your mood and helps depression and anxiety.
- Book a virtual class: If you have something to look forward to in the evening, you’re much more likely to switch off your computer at a decent time. Online classes and courses are having a moment, from photography to pottery, cooking to karate, and many are free, too.
- Chat it out: Talk through your working day with your partner, family, or friends to clear your head and get it all out.
5. Keep mornings, holidays, and weekends sacred
Mornings are for waking up, stretching, and preparing for the day. By giving yourself time to wake up and settle into another day, you’ll do better work throughout your day.
Time off is sacred. Don’t use it to work. Period.
Treat weekends differently. Turn off notifications from work apps—heck, even delete them for the weekend if you have the patience.
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6. Create a designated workspace
If possible, physically separate work from the rest of your home life. This is where your computer should live, and it should be the only place you’re doing work at home. That means no more checking work emails and Slack messages when you wake up—save that for the workspace.
The key to work-life balance
Work is important, but it’s not worth losing your sanity over. As Toni Morrison wrote,
1. Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.
2. You make the job; it doesn’t make you.
3. Your real life is with us, your family.
4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.
What would Toni Morrison say about the way you’ve been working?
Keep that in mind when you’re struggling to sign off.