There’s an argument at the moment that there may be a Coronavirus silver lining: a better work–life balance. Many people, though, (working moms in particular) are finding it even more difficult to cope with all their responsibilities during the pandemic.
There are, of course, numerous benefits to remote work, including the lack of a commute, the possibility to choose your own hours (at least to an extent), and the fact that employees are working longer hours — which is good news for employers. However, this merging of personal life and work life can also lead to burnout, stress, and the sense that you need to work even harder than when you were in the office just because you’re at home. There is also less chance to build relationships with coworkers, especially if your company doesn’t set a standard for taking breaks or encourage socialization.
Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, there are steps you can take to ensure that you or your workers are maintaining a proper work–life balance.
1. Think About Why You Need a Work–Life Balance
Before anything else, you need to reflect on why striking a work–life balance matters. Your career or business may be important — but you need to acknowledge that it’s not everything. Besides, working too hard leads to exhaustion, meaning quality, creativity, and productivity all suffer. In other words, you’re unlikely to see success unless you and your team are well-rested.
2. Work Toward Goals
Setting a certain number of hours to work each day is problematic. For one thing, it can be difficult to measure how much you’re working, as you may spend a few minutes here and there on personal tasks. To make up for this, you may be tempted to continue working a little longer. However, this ignores the fact that you were likely not spending all your time at the office on work tasks. (It’s for this reason that employees tend to work much more when at home than when in the office.)
In addition, it makes much more sense to work toward a goal than to work for a particular amount of time. It’s much more motivating to reach an objective than to put in the hours. One approach is to set an objective for each day that will bring you closer to a larger goal. This will ensure that you’re always on track and keep you productive.
If you’re an employer, you’ll need to decide if you want to allow workers to set their own objectives or if you’ll set the milestones. Whatever you do, make sure you use time-tracking tools sparingly — value employees meeting targets over logging hours.
3. Set Realistic Expectations
The above only works if your expectations are realistic. Some days, you may feel hyper-focused and achieve more than normal — but you’re always going to have the occasional off day. It can take some people a long time to adjust to remote working. Plus, remote work can be especially difficult on days when family members have more demands of your time than usual. Give yourself (or your workers) some degree of leeway and learn from experience to figure out reasonable expectations going forward.
4. Communicate Your Needs with Your Boss (or Listen to Your Employees)
It’s difficult enough for employers to know that they’re setting reasonable workloads for employees when everyone is in the office together. It’s even more of a challenge when you’re all working remotely. For this reason, it’s extra important you talk to your boss if you’re having a hard time keeping up, you’re struggling to be available at a particular time of day, you’re finding it difficult to collaborate with coworkers on a project, or you have any other issue.
As an employer, the best thing you can do to support workers is encourage open conversation and listen to your employees about their needs. Often, simple fixes — such as changing who you assign a certain task to, implementing a tech solution to improve workflows or communication, and outsourcing activities like admin — are all it takes.
5. Share Experiences with Your Team
If your team has transitioned from working together in an office to working remotely, you’re all in the same boat. It can be validating to hear that others are going through the same as you.
For employers, hearing about these experiences is critical for setting policy and understanding what challenges your team may be facing. Encourage your team to feel that they can talk about the difficulties they’re facing in personal lives, whether that’s homeschooling, caring for an elderly parent, or just dealing with rowdy pets who embarrass them on Zoom calls. Consider starting a video chat happy hour on Fridays or a Slack channel dedicated to letting off steam to help your team feel more connected.
6. Avoid Zoom Fatigue
Seeing coworkers faces and infusing more socialization into remote work can be great — but overdoing video calls just adds to stress. Whenever you need to communicate with someone, think about whether a video call is necessary: it may be possible to resolve the issue through a few quick messages.
In addition, when you hold a team meeting, decide if people do need to turn on their cameras. Frequent calls may be necessary, but voice chat alone can often suffice. Regular video chats mean team members need to constantly make sure they’re presentable — not to mention, people are sick at staring at their own faces.
7. Exercise at Home
Gyms may still be closed in your area or you may not be comfortable working out in close quarters with others just yet. Still, this is no excuse for omitting exercise from your schedule entirely. In fact, working out at home is a great use of a break to refresh and reenergize for the rest of the workday.
Plus, it’s easy to find time to exercise — you only need a few minutes, perhaps half an hour a the most. Invest in a few simple pieces of equipment and download a fitness app or follow some workout videos on YouTube.
8. Create a Permanent Workspace
At the start of the pandemic, remote working felt temporary. At this point, most people have already been working remotely for more than a year. Plus, many companies have decided that remote work will either be permanent or they’ll be downsizing and only have workers come into the office a couple times a week. Despite this, some employees still have a home office that feels temporary. It’s time to change that.
First of all, stop sitting wherever you feel like it at home — perhaps you often take your laptop to the couch or maybe you even shift other things out of the way on the kitchen table. Not only is this bad for your posture (which can lead to serious health problems in the long run), it’s harder to feel like you’re working when you don’t have a dedicated space.
Invest in a high-quality chair and a comfortable desk. Install work items around you and use the space just for your job. As an employer, you may like to send workers some branded items to remind them of the company. A mug, some stationery, or perhaps a poster will all likely be appreciated.
9. Look Forward to Future
Work will likely never be the same again — but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, the vast majority of employees who now work remotely say they never want to return to working five days a week at the office. Almost two-thirds say they would like to work remotely full time and 31 percent prefer a hybrid work arrangement: working some days at home, other days at the office. This is all because remote work can lead to a better work–life balance.
The pandemic will be over one day (hopefully, not too far in the future) and you’ll no longer need to juggle all the responsibilities you have now nor miss out on socializing and other activities you enjoy. Instead, you’ll have all the advantages of remote work and far fewer of the downsides. Keep this in mind as you push through the hard times and strive to create a better remote-working routine to set yourself up for success in the future.
An important way to strike a better work–life balance during the pandemic and beyond is to delegate work. Delegate all the tasks you lack the time to do yourself or that you find tedious and that increase your levels of stress. You can contract a virtual assistant just for you or share one with your entire team.