Work-life habits – balancing work & home effectively
Some believe that work-life balance is about making a conscious decision to separate work from home with well-defined boundaries. The outcome of this is more productivity whilst at work, and a better personal life outside of work. Defining and communicating when you are in and out of the office is crucial to ensure you are balancing the key parts of your life.
Others believe that labelling work as somehow separate to life is unrealistic and that a more integrated approach works best, with smooth transitions between different areas of professional and personal life. Ensuring that you can answer emails before dropping the kids at school, take calls prior to going to the gym, have afternoon meetings, pick up the kids, cook dinner and strategize in the evening after the kids are in bed. This flexibility allows you to deliver your work and ensure you have your whole self available for work time, and family time.
Irrespective of which of these schools of thought you follow, a key component of each is ensuring that you build habits that will support your choice.
Create a schedule – establish boundaries – stick to them
Getting up a certain time, having a shower, putting on your work clothes, commuting — these are all parts of most routines that help us make the switch from ‘home’ to ‘work’.
For those not used to working from home, it is all too easy to stray outside of your usual boundaries, and for both work and home-life to suffer. You may decide to replicate your 9-5 through balancing, or that integrating is the way forward, but it’s important that you stick to your hours wherever possible to avoid mental burnout.
Creating a schedule, coordinating and communicating with your family and colleagues, and ensuring that you set aside time to reflect, learn and recharge are key to safeguarding yourself from burnout. The most important thing to remember is that it will take practice, but it’s worth it to enrich your life!
Create a workspace – but don’t just sit there
If you don’t have a home office, set aside part of the house for your workspace. If you don’t have a desk, use your dining room or kitchen table, this helps you to create a productive workspace, avoid distractions, and enables positive, whole-self transitions between your work and home mindsets.
Remember the NHS advice that you should adjust your chair so you can use the keyboard with your wrist and forearms straight and level with the floor, allowing you to maintain good posture and reduce the chances of back, neck or wrist pain. This is easier done in a work environment where you have an office chair, but if you can replicate at home, you should.
And remember – sitting all day isn’t healthy even if you’re at the office, but working from home means you skip your commute and have fewer reasons to get up from your chair throughout the day. So with that in mind…
Get out and about, get some fresh air and stay active
Working from home doesn’t mean staying cooped up all day. Government guidelines still allow for one trip outside for some exercise, so make sure you keep your mind and body fresh and active whenever possible. If you have a garden, go outside for short breaks throughout the day (British weather allowing!), or eat lunch on the patio – anything to get some air in those lungs. After all, when you’re at the office you’ll have your usual ‘break’ routines, from the 11 am and 3 pm cups of coffee, the lunchtime stroll and the brief but regular chats with colleagues. Don’t forgo your screen breaks just because you’re at home.
And whether you have a garden or not, open your windows to let in natural daylight and circulate the air in your home.
If you work on a team, make sure to check in regularly just like you would in the office. Create to-do lists to keep yourself organized and focused, and share the status of your lists with your supervisor so they know you’re on top of your work. Besides email and messaging programs like Slack, it’s a good idea to set up regular check-ins via phone or video conferencing like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom.
And as well as work calls, keep in touch with your office buddies! We’ve all got colleagues that we love to gossip with, use to let off steam or have a chat about the weekend’s activities, and there’s no need to let that slide just because you’re at home. It’s an important part of dealing with the travails of the office, so be sure to keep it going instead of sitting in silence.
Expect distractions, and prepare to be agile.
We all saw the now-infamous clip of the American academic Robert Kelly being interviewed by the BBC when his children made an unexpected appearance – closely followed by his panicked wife.
Well, now that could be any one of us thanks to the need to work from home. Whether that’s children, pets, living in a noisy area or simply the fact your partner will also be working from home, there are plenty of ways work and meetings can be interrupted.
The important thing to remember is that we’re all in the same boat, so try not to feel embarrassed if this happens to you, and try not to lose patience with another co-worker if it’s happening to them.
For those who have children, pets or other requirements for flexibility, here are some tips:
Where possible, mix up your hours. Companies are being more flexible around COVID-19, so try to squeeze in work when your baby or toddler is asleep, like early morning, nap times, and at night. Work with your partner to split the hours up so one of you is keeping them occupied while the other is in the ‘office’. It’s not ideal, but you’ll be more productive if you have quiet time to yourself.
Explain the situation. It’s a good idea to talk to your kids about coronavirus, especially older ones who can better understand the impact it’ll have on your day-to-day life.*
Try new activities. While your children will undoubtedly have plenty of toys and games they’ve never played with and can ‘rediscover’ during the break, they will still run out of ideas soon enough. That’s why we’ve launched bpaqualityathome.co.uk – full of free downloadable content like colouring, dot-to-dots, word searches and puzzles, it’s the perfect way to keep the little ones entertained. There are even activities aimed at adults too, giving you a way to unwind at the end of a busy day!
Use this as a teachable lesson. We’re all learning together on this one, so use the opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of blending work and leisure and creating a healthy, effective work/life balance. The extra ‘hands-on’ time you’ll have with your family will allow you to teach things beyond the schoolwork that’s been set for them. Emotional intelligence, recognising and articulating feelings, empathising with others – you’ll be able to focus on teaching them all of that and more during this period.
The Robert Kelly video that started it all
A 2017 follow-up video
Robert Kelly discusses working from home during the coronavirus
* Emotion Superpower – an amazing site that helps children connect with and understand their feelings
BPA Quality At Home