Maintaining Work-Life Balance in a Work-From-Home World

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    The COVID-19 pandemic has turned lives upside down in more ways than one. Not only has it put a stop to social gatherings and rearranged how we think about in-person interactions, it has also altered most people’s employment situation dramatically. Those who were lucky enough to avoid mass layoffs were faced with the new challenges of navigating working from home. After over a year of this new arrangement, many have found the work-from-home model required a new outlook on prioritizing work-life balance.

    The Work-From-Home Normal

    The sudden change from an in-person workplace to an online workplace has proven quite divisive for Americans across the country. While some find it offers more flexibility and overall employee satisfaction, others struggle with the lack of structure and in-person interaction. Many who dislike the work-from-home model find they may now lack the same work-life balance they used to have when their job was situated around an office environment. In fact, 29 percent of employees working from home said they struggled with developing work-life balance. Meanwhile, others who enjoy working from home find they have better balance overall. In short, working from home has been a mixed bag with work-life balance on the forefront of many people’s minds.

    Schedule in Your Work-Life Balance

    Whether you enjoy working from home or detest it, maintaining or improving your work-life balance often hinges on making time. Those who don’t like working from their home office may find it’s hard to step away from work to eat dinner with the family or feel they aren’t as focused because they need to do dishes or laundry midday. However, you can find balance by compartmentalizing your to-dos.

    We all have a to-do list a mile long, but by sectioning off our focus, we can block out the mental clutter to offer attention to what really matters in the moment. For some people who have trouble putting those dirty bathrooms out of their minds, this may mean actually scheduling work and home time. Using the alarms on your phone or your calendar, divide your day into sections dedicated to work, meals, chores, and family or hobby times. When the clock strikes 8:00am, for example, you are holding yourself accountable to getting your work done until lunchtime at noon. After 5:00pm, you may allow yourself to run that load of laundry or start working on dinner. From 8:00pm to 9:00pm, you might schedule an hour of family time with your spouse or children.

    While it may seem strange to schedule your work-life balance, having a calendar to which to remain accountable can help many people set aside thoughts of the dirty dishes in the sink at 11:00am or that email that came in at 9:00pm, knowing they have time set aside to address it.

    Set Boundaries and Priorities

    Unfortunately, many workers believe that the longer they work, the more valuable they are to their employer. While workplaces often reward hard work, too many employees sacrifice their work-life balance to achieve accolades.

    Work is important. There is no argument there. However, when success at work comes at the expense of home life, it may be time to re-evaluate your balance. Set working hours for yourself and hold to them even during the co-worker guilt trips. Unless something truly is an emergency, there’s no reason you need to respond to a routine email late at night. It may also help to politely verbalize these boundaries to your team. When asked to complete a minor task mere minutes before the end of your day, re-affirm your boundaries! Saying something like, “I’ll take care of this as soon as I begin work tomorrow,” can set expectations for the rest of your colleagues going forward.

    In a similar vein, don’t be afraid to use that time off! Go on vacation or take a mental health day when you need it. If you’re a full-time worker, time off is part of your compensation! This is a great way to unplug and feel productive when your return to your e-office.

    Boundaries also work in reverse, too! If you are struggling with needy kids at home, for example, calmly setting boundaries with them can help you get more done at work. Meanwhile, you may enjoy teaching them the value of respecting other people’s needs. Little ones still not getting the point? Perhaps it’s time to consider daycare or a nanny service. Your needs are important, too.