The COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges upon us that go beyond the realm of understanding, especially when it came to staying home. Many of us didn’t understand the implications, physical or mental, of being forced inside and not being able to leave your house. But with the stay-at-home orders comes the obvious byproduct: remote work - an added adjustment to office workers everywhere.
As the quarantine continues, companies across the globe are shifting their policies to adhere to the current environment but also looking beyond the pandemic, whether that means extending remote work to the end of the year, or even announcing that employees can work from home for as long as they see fit. Organizations that once prided themselves on offices with priceless views of the city, ping pong tables, or rooms with nap pods, are now having to rely on their culture alone to attract and retain talent.
Something that is often overlooked in the remote work universe is harmony between work and life. Working out of an office gives employees a tangible boundary between the two. When employees work from home, it can be seen as a luxury that doesn’t necessitate any sort of balance or boundaries. While it’s easy to see things that way, it can be an incredibly unhealthy cultural habit.
As a company that’s always been completely remote, we feel grateful to have already had time and experience adjusting to this lifestyle before it was forced on the world. With that said, we wanted to shed some light on not only the importance of work-life balance when working from home but some tips that have helped us create an environment that practices and encourages that equilibrium.
Create your own boundaries.
Whatever that means to you, it’s important to define and set your own boundaries. Think about what you’re used to or what a traditional office environment requires from you in terms of separating work and life. For instance, things like your commute or hours set by your company to be in and out of the office. How can you take these concepts and replicate them in a home environment?
Things like exercising before or after work can force you to start or stop at a certain time. Additionally, if you’re a morning exerciser, the act of showering and changing your clothes alone can create a feeling of shifting from home to work. Other tactics you can employ are blocking off time on your calendar in the morning or evening for your routines, errands, family time, etc. If your co-workers see that you’ve blocked time off on your calendar, they will know you are serious about this boundary and would appreciate them respecting it.
Designate a workspace.
Whether you live in a mansion or a tiny New York City apartment, there’s got to be at least one area that you can define as your space to just work. Entering this space means it’s time to work, leaving this space means it’s time to stop. This allows your brain to understand the difference between the two and gives your subconscious permission to focus on other things when you leave that area.
On top of designating a workspace, maybe you choose certain pieces to the puzzle of your ambiance that further define that workspace. For instance, create a playlist of music that you listen to while doing certain things at work. Maybe you need instrumentals while writing or hip hop for inputting data. Or, even something as small as a candle you light while getting work done. Whatever works for you, pick something that tells your brain it’s work time.
Create things to look forward to.
Working from home even when the world is “normal” can be difficult because there aren’t really any events to look forward to like there would be in an office. No “donuts in the break room!” or after-work happy hours. And especially with things how they’ve been, experiences to look forward to have pretty much become getting out of the house to go grocery shopping.
One thing this experience has taught the world is how much the little things matter. When you can’t leave your house and encounter outside people, places, and things, you have to face and enjoy what you have in yourself and your home. Do you love wine? A post-work glass of wine is what you can look forward to. Do you love baking? Look forward to baking cookies after work. Enjoy art? Look forward to dedicating time to doodling in a notepad.
Shift your mindset to seeing these things that were maybe once part of your routine without much thought or gratitude, to things that are now a blessing and can brighten your day. These things allow you to shift from work to life and enjoy the other side of your 40 hours.
Use personal tasks as work breaks.
Need to do laundry? Do it and use it as a break from work. Need to run to Target? Work break. We all know it’s important to take breaks from work, but using personal errands and activities as work breaks allow you to contribute to your personal life while de-stressing and clearing your brain from work thoughts. At the end of the day, you’ll feel good knowing you used your breaks from work to do things for yourself, creating a true balance between the two.
It can be easy to slip into the ‘always on’ mindset and mode when working from home, and maybe that’s how you thrive in your professional life. But for many, that’s not the answer, and can lead to burnout, resentment, and a lack of motivation. For employees, it’s important to create your work-life balance for your own sanity and productivity. For employers, we highly encourage you to preach the importance of this balance to your workforce, because, at the end of the day, the equation for success cannot be reached without rest.