It’s mid-March of 2020. You have completed your routine commute and arrived at your place of work. You sit down to check your emails when you notice you have received a message that says your place of work may be subject to extreme changes within the near future, but they will let you know more in the upcoming days. If you have been following the news during this time, you probably know what to expect, and if you haven’t been staying up to date, you’re in for a world of surprises. Fast forward to April and you are now set up in your home office. You have mastered the commute from your bedroom to your bathroom to your makeshift desk and have become very familiar with Zoom. You have somehow managed to calm the chaos that is life at home and have now turned the quietest corner of your house into a functional workstation. We are now one year in of having to adjust both our personal professional lives based on these new restrictions. Although it was within this last year that the vast majority began working from home for the first time, many employees have been slowly transitioning towards this arrangement for quite some time. So, whether you are in the position of working from home due to COVID19, or have been operating from the home office far before then, this blog will serve as a guide to adjusting or maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle. When you first started working from home, you were probably relieved at the fact that you no longer had to waste precious time commuting to and from your work and that you would now have more time for your personal life. But the truth is, over time, it can be extremely difficult to separate your personal and professional life, and amongst all the pros and benefits there are when getting the opportunity to work from home, learning to navigate this transition can have its serious challenges.
If you're a remote worker who's noticing that the line between work and life is getting blurry, it's time to make some adjustments. First, know that you’re not alone. In a recent survey, it was found that 4 out of 5 workers find it hard to “shut off” in the evenings, and in that same survey, it was discovered that over half of respondents have not taken a mental health day since they started working from home. You may be eager to reset and begin finding quick fixes to the problems you’re facing with remote work, but before you begin doing that it’s important to specify which areas you’re struggling with in order to find proper and sustainable solutions. Here are some challenges in which some people are being exposed to; Lack of socialization and connection to their colleagues, trouble with clear communication within the workplace, absence of collaboration, facing distractions at home, household issues such as sketchy wifi or loud noises from neighbours, and difficulty staying motivated. If your experience while working from home falls into one of these categories it’s important to analyze and dissect how this has affected the quality of your work as well as impacted your well-being and mental health. For some people, they feel as though they can’t escape work and will end up working later more often. For others, they feel like a robot, churning out work without the sense of company culture or basic interactions. But after having assessed the ways in which you might be struggling with remote work, it becomes much easier to identify tactics and solutions to these problems.
Understanding and implementing work-life balance tactics when working remotely will likely lead you to enjoy working from home way more than you initially anticipated, or reinvigorate the feeling of excitement when you first began. To do this, start by examining your schedule. What time of the day are you starting and finishing work on a regular basis? Which time of day are you taking your lunch breaks or eating your meals? Do you use a calendar to keep track of your schedule, or do you have a set schedule at all? If you have been operating without a daily agenda this can lead to inconsistency and poor organization, and you will likely be spending your time in an unproductive manner. Be sure to schedule a few breaks each day around the same time to ensure you give your mind the time it needs to relax. Plan to get fresh air at least 2-3 times a day to prevent yourself from going stir-crazy which can happen when working and living in the same space. Try to maximize your time within the 7-9 hour work window which is more easily done when you have an official start time each day. Planning and structuring your time thoroughly will help improve efficiency and inevitably give you more time for yourself. Next, examine your workspace. Is it functional? Is it comfortable? And most importantly, is it clean? Your workspace is usually the gatekeeper to your sanity without you even knowing it. The physical environment of the workplace has a significant effect on the way that we work. When our space is a mess, so are we. It’s not necessarily that we lose precious work time whenever something goes missing or we need to search through the clutter, it’s more about the mindset that mess puts us in. When our space is disorganized, we feel disorganized. When our space is messy, we automatically feel stressed and easily agitated. Our brains prefer when things are in order and we have proper and functional systems in place. Try to remember that clutter drains our cognitive resources and reduces our ability to focus, so regularly tidying your workspace, rather than letting things pile up and accumulate will help you avoid your workspace turning into a procrastination station, so allocate certain times throughout the week where you tidy your workspace area. Next, avoid working from your bed or couch if you can help it. Having a designated workspace will help you train your mind that this selected location within your home where your desk is, is where you focus. When you begin to mix up your lounge and relaxation spots with work, your spatial boundaries become lost and crossed, and now your entire home may feel like the office. Next, know your priorities and find ways to manage them in a timely fashion so they don’t become distractions. This means, avoid doing laundry in the middle of the day or cleaning your home, or running errands on your lunch break. Try not to allow your home-related priorities to interfere with your workday or disrupt your work associated duties. When you schedule your time more efficiently, you can prioritize your personal and professional matters so you don’t feel overwhelmed or distracted.
The struggle to unplug, take breaks, recharge, or decompress at the end of the workday is a common problem amongst those who work remotely. Even if you love every moment of your workday, you still need to disconnect and allow yourself to turn off. Setting clear boundaries for your co-workers and yourself as to when you are and are not available will do wonders for your stress levels and provide you with the permission to abide by your own office hours. Everyone needs to reset now and then. If this means taking a personal day to clear your mind and focus on your mental health, then recognize that time is needed. You don’t always need to be overrun or depleted to be entitled to these personal days. Think of it as more of a sustainable act to keep you going, much like you would fill a car up with gas. A great way to put yourself in a positive mindset when feeling a little confined or exhausted given your current work setup is to think of all the benefits and advantages there are. This includes the money you tend to save from commuting and the avoided ware on your vehicle. There is the opportunity to make more meals at home that are often healthier than that of dining out. Don't forget about loungewear! Who doesn’t love wearing sweatpants to work!? Your schedule can be a little bit more flexible, and there is less time wasted and more time spent working and learning. You have the ability to work from anywhere! You can make your workspace more comfortable and individualized. You can schedule set breaks to enjoy fresh air, and working from home has been known to increase employee empowerment due to the fact that remote work encourages people to be more independent and self-directed.
As previously discussed, remote work may have been a huge shock for some of you in the wake of COVID19, for others working from home has been a part of your role for quite some time. Either way, we all need reminders on how to elevate our current situation. Building better habits and routines will help solidify a good relationship with our home office, whatever that may look like. And don’t forget, you're entitled to personal wellness days to restructure, re-organize, and re-energize yourself, despite feeling like it may be unnecessary as you are working from the comfort of your own home.