Before the pandemic, working from home was considered the pinnacle of managing work life balance. It was one of the most highly requested workplace perks with people craving time away from busy offices, avoiding the commute and working from the comfort of their own home.
A year later, and it’s become the norm.
More than 46% of UK employees have been working completely remotely for over a year now and it’s highlighted some of the things we once took for granted in the office, mainly social interaction and opportunity for organic collaboration and creativity.
With restrictions still in place across the UK many businesses still have no plans to bring employees back to the office environment in the short term and so remote working is set to stay. For this reason, it’s important that we address some of the pitfalls of remote working to prevent us from becoming disillusioned or burnt out.
A new report from Microsoft Surface and YouGov suggested that employees felt they were expected to deliver more while working remotely, their working hours had increased and 53% felt they had to be available at all times.
Here are some simple steps to help you manage work life balance while working remotely.
1. Review your Routine
When we switched to remote working at the start of the pandemic, we all grappled to establish a routine that felt manageable during a time of uncertainty. With little else to do apart from work, many people threw themselves into their working lives to keep busy and distracted from what was going on around them. A year on and the situation is very different, we’ve come to terms with new ways of living and working and so it’s worth looking at whether your daily routine is suited to today’s world. Are you spending too much time at your desk? Are you feeling burnt out? Have you stopped getting dressed or taking a proper lunch break? These are all factors that will contribute to our overall sense of wellbeing so looking at ways to adapt and improve your routine is a good place to start.
2. Establish Boundaries
When working from home the line between work life and home life is easily blurred and for that reason it’s important to set and stick to boundaries. This includes what time you start and finish work and resisting checking your emails out of hours. Having a dedicated work space at home is one way to help establish such boundaries as if you can close the door on your home office at the end of the day it’ll be less tempting to fire up your laptop an hour later. By not commuting to and from the office or spending time travelling to meetings some employees may feel pressure to fill this additional time with virtual meetings or other related work tasks however this can easily lead to burnout. No one will set these boundaries for you, so you need to set them yourself. Setting and sticking to them should mean that you can work effectively without running yourself into the ground.
3. Take breaks and Keep Active
In the first lockdown the sun was shining and our daily walks and virtual exercise classes were our main outlet away from work so we were much more inclined to make the most of them. As time has passed, they’ve become less of a novelty and people are spending more time at their desk. Instead of eating lunch at your desk or spending any breaks scrolling through social media, make the effort to have some time away from a screen. The physical and mental benefits of simply getting outside for a walk are countless, from reducing stress, to lowering blood pressure. Staying active doesn’t have to mean an intense workout so find something that suits you and incorporate it into your daily routine.
4. Turn off Notifications
Shutting down your laptop is one thing but are you truly switching off from work if you’re getting emails and other work-related notifications on your mobile? When we receive a notification, it deliberately captures our attention and this is where work can slowly intrude into your down time. Whilst you may initially think you’ll only respond to that one email, the chances are you’ll be checking the rest of your inbox in no time and before long it becomes a habit! Unless there’s a significant reason for you to be contactable at all hours of the day, turn off those notification and give your brain a rest! You’ll still be able to access the apps when you need to, you’ll just remove that pressure of feeling like you have to catch up with things whenever you hear a ping come through. In turn, you should start feeling less anxious overall, your phone will become less of a distraction and you’ll be able to spend your down time focussing on the other things that matter in your life.
5. Take Time Off
Before the pandemic, most people would leave the office on a Friday and not think about work over the weekend however since the lines between home and work have been blurred it’s become much harder. Taking real time off, totally switched off from work is so important. Social media often glorifies working long hours and being available 24/7 but the reality is that’s not good for anyone. On your days off make a conscious effort not to check in on work, no matter how easy it is to fire up your laptop or check emails on your phone. Turning off notifications can be a good starting point to help with this. Instead spend your time off doing things you enjoy, things that make you feel fulfilled and remember to take time to rest too! You’ll return to work feeling refreshed, energised and your productivity will be improved.
Working remotely comes with lots of benefits, for both employees and businesses. The key is to get the right balance and to embed this into the culture of the company. This will help to alleviate some of the pressures employees may be feeling and ensure there is a process in place should someone need additional support.
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