The coronavirus pandemic has flipped everyone’s world upside down, forcing us to adjust to new ways of living and working. For those fortunate enough to be working remotely during this crisis, three months of work, life, pyjamas and Zoom calls have whizzed by.
When it feels as though we are living in an ′infinite present’, it’s no wonder many of us are missing aspects of our former work life – from face-to-face social interactions with colleagues at the coffee machine to simply being in a buzzy office environment (yes, really). Or using the lift.
There are perks to working from home, of course – bye bye, stressful commute! – but while we may have gained an hour in bed, that hour can be eaten up worrying about job security or stressed by the increasingly blurred lines of work and home life. Add childcare into the mix and it’s hard to stay level. We know we need work-life balance, but what does that actually look like now?
One size doesn’t fit all
The challenge of remote working has taken its toll on some more than others. That’s as true of the aches and pains we experience at our desk / kitchen table / ironing board as it is of our relative levels of productivity and procrastination during the work day. We are no longer occupying the same office, and even when we were, everyone’s preferred work style was different. Now we can recognise those differences, there’s an opportunity to cater for them.
“Businesses should step up and provide tools and training for their employees during this difficult period,” says Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of London-based tech developer Studio Graphene. “Importantly, they cannot treat their entire workforce the same, with each member of staff having unique needs and circumstances that they must support.”
Set your own boundaries
Working from home has its positives and negatives. Many people are finding the lack of commute, slower pace of life, fewer distractions and being away from a stressful – even toxic – work environment is better for their mental health. Others may be feeling lonely, lacking in motivation, and missing the pace.
It’s good to be as productive as possible – not to be a slave to the man, but so that our work time is work time, and our free time ours to reclaim. “Because work is spilling into home life I think it’s important to have some boundaries,” says Chloe Brotheridge, hypnotherapist and Calmer You coach.
“That might be around when you answer emails or phone calls, your lunch break, what time you start and finish work. Remember, you set the expectation to others about what is and isn’t okay with you – if you’re answering work emails at 10pm they may come to expect that.”
Boundaries also apply to your physical space – most of us don’t have the luxury of a home office, but it helps to impose clear divides in your home so you have a place where you psychologically feel that you’re ‘at work’. “The more that you move around, the more your home and work boundaries blur,” occupational psychologist at Affinity Health at Work, Rachel Lewis tells HuffPost UK. “Try to keep a routine, so you aim to have as similar a day in the office as possible.”
And when it comes to the weekend, clear your workspace to clear your mind.
Turn on. Tune in. Log out
Maintaining a good work-life balance not only helps you work better, it’s fundamental to looking after yourself, preventing burnout in the workplace. Feelings of stress, boredom, anxiety and uncertainty are completely normal during this time. One way to counteract them is to reduce your screen time.
“There’s a lot of online activity going on. We’re probably less critical of it than we were before,” explains Martin Talks, founder of Digital Detoxing.
“Building in digital detoxes in your life is a good idea. We’re straining our eyes with backlit screens, stressing ourselves over work emails and disappearing down a rabbit hole on social media, so clear your mind and keep technology outlook to a minimum.” Does that meeting really need to be on video? Try calling them instead.
Working towards a better future
Working from home has become an organisational necessity. We’ve seen that for many people it’s possible to work remotely and, for many companies, it’s now seen as a realistic – even positive and productive – way to operate.
“The more control we can have about the way we do our work could impact how we do our work better,” says Talks. “It should be less about location and more about what the output is.”
Organisations will benefit from handing over control to the employees – and trusting them to get things done, Lewis adds. “From that, we should see a change in management being more empathetic and compassionate towards its staff as well as a bigger focus for recognition and accomplishments.”