With the sudden surge of people working from home due to COVID-19, many feel overwhelmed about what their day-to-day life may look like for the time being. It can be easy to forget the importance of setting boundaries between your home life and your work life, but not doing so can lead to a drop in productivity and increased feelings of isolation and loneliness.
This is why it’s so crucial to maintain routines and structure during this difficult time for the sake of both your job performance and personal well-being. There are seven essential facets to proper remote work-life balance.
BEFORE YOU START WORK:
1. Getting Dressed
As tempting as it may be to work all day in pajamas or lounge attire, this has been shown to hurt productivity and even stoke the fire of depression. While working from home, it is important to continue your everyday routine, such as dressing for work in the morning and maintaining personal grooming habits.
“Don’t underestimate the power of putting on clothes suitable for public viewing. It makes you feel human, confident, and helps draw the line between being at work and being at home.”
– Heather Yurovsky, Career Coach and Founder of Shatter and Shine
2. Creating a Home Office
Another temptation to avoid is working in several spots around your home throughout the day and not a designated work space. It’s important to set boundaries as to what is your home and what is your work space so you can separate your home life from your work life.
If you work in bed or on your sofa, not only will your productivity suffer, but it can also make those spaces less of a personal sanctuary after work hours.
“Have a place you go specifically to work. It could be a certain table, chair, local coffee shop — some place that’s consistently your ‘work space.’ It helps you get into the right frame of mind.”
– Sam Mallikarjunan, CRO of Flock
DURING WORK HOURS:
3. Avoid Distractions by Setting Breaks
This has always been the most difficult aspect of working from home. Still, the current climate makes it harder than ever since it’s now a necessity to stay informed on the latest news updates.
This is why it is crucial to schedule a designated time for breaks. Put aside ten minutes every few hours to check in on the news and let yourself get distracted. Try putting a timer on your phone so when the alarm chimes, you know to drop what you’re doing and go back to work.
Keep to your break schedule at consistent times every day so it becomes more of a set routine. Also, try not to use breaks for household chores if possible to maintain the line between home and work life.
“There’s nothing wrong with taking a little break, but don’t let chores distract you from being productive. You wouldn’t be doing them if you were at work,”
– Carolyn Forté, Director at Good Housekeeping Institute
4. Communication is Priority #1
Staying in touch with your employer and coworkers is essential to maintaining job performance. Coming up with a plan for effective communication with your supervisor before you switch to working remotely is ideal, but it is never too late.
Try setting up a regular daily call, even if it’s for a few minutes to touch base. Keep in contact with coworkers over Google hangouts or any other group messaging program. If you’re feeling particularly disconnected, you can even make a video call to a coworker during a designated break to simulate a water cooler chat.
5. Calling it a Day
When you’re finished with work for the day, having a routine is just as important as it was before you began. Sign off with your supervisor or co workers, clean up your workstation so it is ready for the next day, lay out clothes for tomorrow — or anything else to signal that the work day is over.
These activities may seem pointless, but they create a ritual to help maintain the boundary between your work/home life and your home/home life. They help you to feel the same kind of relief you felt when you came home for the day. Your home remains a sanctuary.
“I thrive in structure. I drown in chaos.”
– Anna Kendrick, Actress
6. Communication Outside of Work
If you live alone, working from home like this can be an incredibly isolating experience. Talking to friends and family is not just important, but necessary to maintain personal well being. Before and/or after work, you should spend some time speaking with others either over the phone or (preferably) with video chat apps like Facetime or Skype.
This will also help deal with any anxiety you may be feeling about COVID-19.
If you live with others, such as family or roommates, try spending time with them in person and using telecommunication for everyone else. Pets are great for situations like this and spending time with them is always rewarding.
“Human interaction is the key force in overcoming resistance and speeding change.”
– Atul Gawande, Doctor, Writer, And Public Health Specialist
7. Outdoor Activities
Working from home and staying away from public gatherings doesn’t mean you can’t go outside. Exercise and fresh air are always important and can be completely safe if you maintain social distancing.
Going for a walk, a jog, or a bike ride is a great way to get out of the house and stay healthy. Hiking is wonderful if you live in an area where you can do it. Try taking your dog with you if you have one since they need the exercise just as much as you do.
Although it seems dogs cannot contract coronavirus, social distancing should also apply to them just to be on the safe side. Keep them close when other people or animals are near.
- Invest in Earplugs or Noise Cancelling Headphones: If you live near noisy neighbors, construction sites, or any other audible distraction, these will become your best friends.
- Keep Hydrated: For many, a trip to the water cooler a few times a day is part of their routine. Working from home should be no different.
- Remember to Breathe: This is a stressful and unsure time we live in, but this too shall pass. This will not be forever and things will normalize in time. Remind yourself of this when you start to feel lost or overwhelmed. It will get better.
Adapting to new situations is always challenging, but it’s what humanity has done since the dawn of time. We are resilient beings, capable of adjusting to whatever life throws our way. By continuing our morning routines, maintaining a set work schedule, communicating daily with coworkers and loved ones, and sustaining a strong boundary between our work and home lives, we can carry on until it’s time to return to the office.