Balancing work and family in the same space has become the new normal. But if you’re seeking tips on how to manage the two in the best possible way, then read below for some helpful details.
Research indicates that remote working is not only a great way for companies to save space and reduce costs, but it tends to improve worker productivity. However, this is may be due to an added caveat: many employees who work remotely tend to work longer hours, as well as odd hours. This hints at the darker side of remote working, which is that it’s incredibly difficult to manage one’s time properly without outside structure.
However, this problem can be addressed by imposing some structure of your own. Remote workers can be just as productive or even more productive than their in-office counterparts and maintain their productivity over time. It will take some planning and a lot of proper time management.
By balancing work and family at home, remote workers can learn to have the best of both worlds, remaining productive while spending time with their loved ones and making a little time for themselves. Otherwise, the benefits of remote working can be cut short by an increased risk of burnout and overall stress.
1. Set Real Boundaries
As hard as it may be, it’s important to consistently and clearly distinguish between work and home – even when both take place within the same four walls. Set aside a room, a corner, a desk, or anything you can to designate “the office.” Set a schedule where you should not be disturbed.
With kids in the house, this can be very difficult. If you live with a partner or a spouse, coordinate with them to find the best three to four-hour window for you to get most of your concentrated work done, so the rest can get done intermittently between breaks. Put up a sign or lock the door or use headphones to put yourself in a different space.
Both physical and temporal boundaries are important for your mind to distinguish between work and home living. To that end, it’s also important to be away from work when you’re done with work. Stop checking emails or responding to messages after a set time and be sure your clients and/or employers know exactly when that time is. If needed, you can make exceptions for emergencies, but it’s important to discuss and properly define an “emergency.”
It might not seem like a big deal to be aware of what kind of communication you’re receiving from work while not technically working, but whenever you respond to an email or go over a coworker’s comment you are in fact “at work.” And being at work constantly is a detriment to your work-life balance.
2. Create a To-Do List
When at work, you’ll want to get as much done as possible. To eliminate the guilty feeling that accompanies being distracted and stuck on tasks while working from home, you need to set up a step-by-step process for each daily task and work through your responsibilities incrementally.
To-do lists are helpful here, as they let you quickly plan out the goals for the day, allot time for each step, and execute it without having to go over what you’ve done and what you need to do every hour or so. This will also help you jump right back into work if you’re in an environment with a lot of distractions or forced breaks, like home. You’re not always going to get your three hours of peace and silence – but if and when you do, a to-do list can help you capitalize on that time.
3. Start Work Very Early (or Very Late)
If your sleeping schedule is inherently flawed nowadays, you might as well take advantage of that fact and figure out a good way to capitalize on the time you’re spending awake while everyone else is asleep.
Either pick the graveyard shift or wake up much earlier to get started with work while everyone else is still asleep. This way you can knock most of your tasks off your to-do list early on in the work day, then get to the tasks that don’t require quite as much focus throughout the rest of the work day, as everyone else is waking up.
However, don’t underestimate good sleep. A good night’s sleep is absolutely critical for mental performance, and research shows us time and time again how underrated sleep can be, and how even a little bit of restlessness can cost us cognitively.
If you’re waking up early to get an extra hour or two of quiet time in before everyone else is getting up, make sure you can get organized to go to bed an hour or two ahead of everyone else as well. This is easier said than done, and you will need some support from the rest of the family depending on how everyone’s household tasks are divided.
4. Elicit Help for Chores
When working from home, one of the tougher challenges is juggling work life with the need to keep the home clean and tidy. If you and your partner are both working from home, the logical answer is to split the housework, doing a little more or a little less depending on which one of you is busier. Some weeks, the workload is heftier than other weeks. Some days, a work task might take priority and require a little overtime. Remaining flexible for any variation in schedule is important here, so don’t get too stuck on who’s job it is to do what.
If you have kids, find age-appropriate chores for them to complete. Young children can learn to practice cleaning up after themselves, fold clothes, bring used clothes to the hamper, and organize their rooms. Older kids can do laundry and the dishes, keep the floors and windows clean, and help in other ways.
5. Find an Effective & Healthy Way to Wind Down
The “quarantini” has become a trend for a reason, but don’t get too attached to coping styles of that sort. They’re called “maladaptive” coping mechanisms for a reason. Finding a form of “me time” that helps you relax and is good for you can be somewhat of a challenge but is important when working from home.
It can be anything therapeutic from working with your hands (a little baking or stitching) to working with your mind (sudoku, puzzle games, online video games), or letting off some steam (yoga, boxing, exercise).
Pick a handful of simple half-an-hour to one hour-long activities that you can rely on to cap a day off, either after work or after spending time with your family and make them a priority. It might seem selfish to spend time solely for yourself when there is probably plenty else to do, but you need some way of staying sane.
6. It’s Okay Not to Be as Productive
Given the context and the news around the world, as well as the sudden and abrupt shift to remote working for many, these are still extraordinary circumstances.
As we inevitably shift more towards a remote work environment and the continuing growth of the work-from-anywhere trend, it will be important to get used to circumstances such as these and manage an effective rhythm from home.
But for now, cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to take a little time to adjust and figure out the best way to organize yourself in chaotic times like these.