As the US transitioned to a work-from-home economy in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many were unprepared for how to manage the blurred lines of work and home life. Suddenly the home became office space, unseparated by a commute or even a morning routine, leaving many to feel like they live at work because, in a sense, they do.
The sudden drastic change in the work environment brought to prominence the importance of work-life balance for health and well-being. It’s been said that a healthy work-life balance not only benefits both employee and employer but also helps reduce stress and burnout and improves productivity and talent retention in the workplace.
Sticking to healthy boundaries and prioritization is the cornerstone to implementing balance in your career. Here are some tips to help get you there:
Consider implementing a “commute”
One of the most loved aspects of working from home is abandoning the commute, a dreaded and stressful time-suck for many. But the benefit of the commute is not only the physical but mental barrier it provides between home and work life. Instead of rolling out of bed and heading straight to the desk, try to “reset” in some way by finding a moment of distance or peace from your home life. For many people, that may look like walking the dog, getting coffee out, or even practicing a short meditation.
Get ready for the day
It is all too tempting to start working in pajamas from the night before, but changing and making yourself presentable before you start your workday– zoom meetings or not –can also provide the mental switch of feeling like you’ve entered “office mode.” It’s probably not necessary to wear button-ups or blazers, but freshening up can make a big difference.
Set your hours and stick to them
Depending on the demands of your job or home/ family life, this may be easier said than done, but routine and boundaries are the foundation of a healthy work-life balance. Be sure to get on the same page as your employer about sticking to a schedule, and be sure you aren’t always on call if possible. Ask about your company’s policy on flex hours if you have children or another person to care for that impacts your time. Mute your Slack or work-messenger notifications and refrain from checking work emails outside of your set hours. If you have trouble logging off for the day, try bookending the day with a virtual exercise class or other commitment that forces you to finish up your work.
Consolidate your calendar
Although work-life balance is often about separating your work and personal life, it is a great idea to consider consolidating your calendars to make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself with commitments or double book yourself.
“Eat the frog”
Mark Twain once wrote, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” This wisdom has been applied to productivity enthusiasts ever since. The frog metaphor implies that one should do their most important or dreaded tasks at the very beginning of the day. If you procrastinate on your essential tasks, you’re likely to drag them out and may end up working later than you’d like.
You don’t need to look at the before and after photos of former US presidents to know that the stress of work ages us, exacerbating health concerns and even harsh affects to our appearances such as premature hair loss and fine wrinkles. When you work from home, self-care can easily slip to the wayside. It’s convenient and tempting to roll out of bed and log in, skipping a morning routine, vital to one’s overall wellbeing and the feeling of having a balanced barrier between work and home life. It doesn’t have to be much, but investing the time and money you save from a commute into self-care is a healthy way to establish that productive feeling of getting put together for a workday and adding balance to your routine, especially if you’re used to an office environment.
Make time for exciting hobbies outside of work
If you have the time for a fun hobby outside of work, it’s a great idea to prioritize that fun once your workday is over. All too often people log-off, just to continue with personal chores like cooking or laundry and then decompress with Netflix. Devoting some time to something joyful with no pressure on outcomes, will put the life back in work-life balance and make it feel like you aren’t just waiting for the weekend for the fun to start.
Set yourself up for success
Before you log off on Friday, set yourself up for success the following week by making a to-do list and having a clear vision of what tasks you need to accomplish first thing Monday morning. It’ll keep the “Sunday scaries” feeling at bay that invades your off time.
It takes a little bit of effort and discipline for positive changes to foster a healthy work-life balance while working at home. Still, it greatly benefits your health, career satisfaction, and productivity. Try implementing a few of the tips if you would like to foster a healthy relationship with your career.