In the past, employees sought to separate their work in the office from their personal lives.
One of the most common practices to do so is to finish or leave all work in the office and not bring any unfinished paperwork home with them.
Because of work from home (WFH) – accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic – achieving a work-life balance seems to be more elusive, now that a worker’s very own home has become his/her workplace.
Let us discuss what work-life balance is and how you can achieve this balance and productivity in a WFH scenario.
Work-Life Balance Defined
Work-life balance is a state of equilibrium wherein an individual places equal priority on the demands of career and personal life (including family). This equilibrium is maintained by keeping the responsibilities from both aspects of a person’s life separate.
In pre-pandemic times, this balance can be disrupted by four common factors:
- Increasing work responsibilities
- Longer work hours
- Increasing home responsibilities
- Taking care of children, a sick family member, and/or the elderly
When COVID-19 reared its ugly head, millions of people found their work-life balance disrupted.
Former office workers were forced to transition to WFH unprepared by their employers, who in turn scrambled to create networks and other solutions among their employees to keep businesses running.
While those who are already in a WFH situation are better equipped to handle the “new normal”, they also didn’t count on getting disrupted by the presence of spouses and kids who are suddenly home all the time.
Although one survey reported that 60 percent of employees claimed to have improved work-life balance during the pandemic, such an improvement proved to be for the early months, a condition which Forbes has dubbed as “panic productivity”.
As time and COVID-19 plodded on, a more recent survey showed that 73 percent of the 7,000 professionals surveyed reported that they are burned out (compared to the 61 percent in pre-pandemic times).
It is interesting to note that 27 percent of these professionals claimed that their burn out is due to their inability to separate their work from their personal lives.
Not only that, a host of mental issues have arisen as a result of WFH, including anxiety (due to fears of losing their jobs, financial difficulties, etc.), feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression.
If WFH is to be the “new normal” – whether it is a permanent solution or a part of a hybrid work scheme – people should learn to adapt to their new working conditions and, most importantly, try to achieve some form of work-life balance.
Why do we say “try to achieve”? Let’s look at this realistically.
There is no such thing as a PERFECT work-life balance.
There will always come a time when certain factors will disrupt this delicate balance.
By adopting measures by which you can balance the scales in your life, alleviate stress, and maintain productivity, you can breeze through the challenges posed by a WFH situation.
How to Achieve Work-Life Balance in a WFH Situation
Taking the necessary steps to achieve a work-life balance is necessary if you are to
1) Make a realistic schedule and set boundaries
WFH gives you the advantage of maintaining a flexible schedule. However, it is still best to come up with a regular schedule in order to preserve your productivity and manage your stress at the same time.
For those who are coming out of an office schedule, you can observe the same 9 to 5 hours at home.
Other individuals choose to follow different skeds to match their productivity. A good example are people who prefer to work on graveyard shifts because of the relative quiet and the faster Internet connections.
Make sure that you set boundaries. Always log in and log off at the same times each day.
When you log off, make sure that you shut off computers and smartphones that you use for work.
By setting boundaries, your family knows when you are not to be disturbed as well as limit interactions with your employers and co-workers within your work times.
2) Make a “To-Do” List
Making a daily “To-Do” list helps you to prioritize the work that needs to be done.
This way, you don’t find yourself jumping from one task to another.
A “To-Do” list can also be very helpful if you need to do chores on certain times of the day, even during your assigned work hours. In these cases, you can schedule these chores during your breaks.
As an example, let’s say you have set a 9 to 5 WFH schedule for yourself.
It happens to be garbage collection day with the truck driving through your neighborhood at 10 am.
You can either take out the garbage before you start work at around 8 to 8:30 am or you can schedule a short break of 5 to 10 minutes at 9:50 am to do the task.
Scheduling these small tasks around breaks can help to give you a short breather from work.
3) Schedule breaks
And speaking of breaks, they should be a part of your schedule too because they give you the chance to relax and unwind a bit.
Set a full hour lunch break at 11 am or 12 noon (or whatever time is best for you). Also, give yourself two 15-minute coffee breaks at 10 am and 3 pm.
You may want to consider taking these breaks outside the house so you can get fresh air.
A study has shown that breathing in fresh air improves productivity, promotes better decision-making and information processing, and alleviates stress.
Any health professional will tell you that it’s bad to stay rooted to your chair for long hours, so make it a point to stand up and walk for a few minutes every hour.
Your eyes also need to take a break from your computer screen, so close your eyes and/or gaze at a far-off object for 15 to 20 seconds.
4) Chat with co-workers
Just because you are WFH does not mean that you can’t communicate with your co-workers who are now working at home the same as you.
Use Zoom or Slack to connect with your co-worker for 10 minutes daily to chat.
Keep work out of your chats and instead try to catch up on each other’s personal lives or talk about stuff that you mutually enjoy, such as the latest TV show or movie on Netflix.
5) Always make time for yourself
A WFH situation does not mean you will devote your entire life and time to work.
Make it a point to add the things you love to do in your schedule. For example, during breaks, aside from eating, you can unwind by watching a TV show or reading a couple of chapters of a novel.
After you log off from work, do some exercise or yoga and get a refreshing shower. You can also indulge in your favorite hobbies or practice meditation.
As much as possible, keep work out of your weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are intended for you to spend time with your family and unwind from the stress of the work week.
6) Take a vacation
Many individuals harbor the wrong belief that because they are on WFH status, this means that they couldn’t get a vacation.
Nothing can be further than the truth! As an employee, you are entitled to a vacation, even if you are WFH.
If you are starting to feel burned out, apply for a leave, even if it’s a one-day staycation or a two-week vacation to another city or country. You need the vacation to recharge your body physically and mentally.
7) Always prioritize your health
The reason why people who are WFH are getting burned out is because they are putting their health secondary to their work.
They think that because they are WFH, they can get rest anytime.
Not true! Illness can strike anytime, anywhere, including your home. So, make sure that you always eat healthy and exercise. That’s one advantage of WFH.
You can whip up healthy dishes right in your own kitchens and even do simple stretches in between tasks. If you do get sick, take time off from work to rest and recuperate.
The same also applies to people who are suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety. If the stress gets too overwhelming for you – or you’re feeling burnt-out from working from home – consider taking some time off.
8) Set up a support network
There can be times wherein you just feel too overwhelmed by work and personal life responsibilities.
Rather than have your mental health suffer, early on, build up a support network of people you can talk to, such as a trusted family member, friend, co-worker, or someone from your company’s HR.
9) Shut off the negative
While it is good to continue to be informed on the state of the world, especially now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, sometimes too much bad news can wreak its toll on your mental health.
If you’re watching the news and the topic is something that disturbs you, switch to another channel or turn the TV off. You don’t need to add to your stress and anxiety.
10) Evaluate your work week
Consider doing a personal evaluation at the end of your work week.
If you feel tired or burned out, you may be taking on too much that your body and mind couldn’t handle.
You may want to spread out your workload throughout the week so you don’t overburden yourself. If you’re doing too many household chores, delegate them to other family members.
You don’t need to sacrifice your work-life balance in a WFH scenario.
Just follow our ten tips above to restore equilibrium in your life!
If you’re looking for other resources on working from home, be sure to check out our Complete Guide To Working From Home to get you started!