The shift to working from home has created benefits and challenges. For some, the ability to blend work and life has been a positive shift, while others have struggled to find the boundaries between these worlds. Work-life balance and remote work requires attention and adaptations for companies and employees alike.
A 2019 report indicated that only 3.6% of the workforce, about 5 million people, were working from home. This year, 50% of the workforce shifted to remote work and 77% report wanting it to stay this way. The trade-off, however, is that while 80% say they enjoy seeing their family during the day, 27% indicate they are working longer hours. All of this data shows the complicated relationship between work-life balance and remote work.
If you are stuck in this in-between, here are four ways to navigate that fine line between work-life balance and remote work.
Stick to a schedule
As much as it’s within your power to do so, plan your day like you would if you were in the office. Create a to-do list that matches your top priorities and tackle them in order. Make sure you have a start and end time to your day to avoid working those overtime hours. If you prefer to take a longer lunch break with family or get a later start so you can have a leisurely breakfast, plan for it and adjust your hours to accommodate this balance. While you don’t have to be rigid, respecting your schedule will help you feel more balanced.
It can be tempting to work through normal break times when your home is your office. You might find yourself shifting between home and work tasks without consciously doing so. Build dedicated breaks into your schedule and incorporate some fresh air into your day. Go for a walk or just step outside and breathe deeply. Have a quick chat with others in your home, grab a snack, and dive back into work refreshed for the task at hand.
Create a dedicated workspace
One of the biggest challenges for those navigating work-life balance and remote work is not having physical separation between living and work spaces. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recommends setting aside a specific place for work. He advocates “one space, one use.” No matter how small your living space is, reserve separate spaces for work and life. This psychological separation will help improve your focus and attention on work and help you relax during off hours.
With travel restrictions and financial belt tightening for many, vacation time has fallen to the wayside. Yet, it’s more important than ever to maintain a healthy work-life balance and remote work longevity. Even if you don’t go anywhere, take time to step away from work for a few days. Spend time with your family differently than you do on a normal work day. Take food on the go and explore the outdoors. Changing your scenery and removing yourself from the stressors of work will go a long way toward restoring your balance and improving your wellbeing.
Much more will be said about work-life balance and remote work as this short-term solution becomes a longer-term choice for both organizations and employees. In the meantime, be mindful of your wellbeing and make adjustments to your work and home life to better support your physical, emotional, and relational health.