The COVID-19 pandemic has really flipped the concept of balance as we know it on its head. Work has now seeped so dramatically into the home environment, is work-life balance even a practical consideration anymore? Always. Balance is more important than ever, and worth putting up a fight to maintain our productivity, our output and our sanity.
Suddenly working from home for part of the working week on a regular basis is a reality. In a classroom or in a store, on a building site or behind the wheel remote working isn’t possible, but finding the balance still needs to be.
Keep Your Head Happy
The global situation is draining, and stress can certainly affect your productivity no matter where your work environment may be. Crucially, productivity and interpersonal relationships are often quoted as the two major casualties of a stressed out workforce.
In the current climate people have certainly become more aware of the stresses and complications others have been experiencing, be they financial, homeschooling, or caring for dependents. Opportunities are there for a bit of wriggle room on previously rigid work schedules. Get wriggling and take them.
On a busy day micro-breaks between important tasks help clear your mind and reset your focus. Eat lunch away from the computer. Pick up that coffee from down the road. Work out. Schedule time with family and friends. Prioritise these or they can too easily go by the wayside.
In these uncertain times your company may need you, but it also needs the best version of you. Set your own boundaries, within the parameters of what your role requires from you in the current climate. At the same time, it doesn’t pay to dig your heels in about self-care when things at work are in crisis mode. Take your downtime seriously, but select it wisely.
It can be difficult enough to focus working within your home environment when you have a dedicated office or work space, let alone when you’re trying to hustle from the dining room table.
It’s so easy to think I’d better wipe down that bench. The dog needs a walk. A proper flat white will get me going. Lo and behold! You’ve frittered away a couple of hours and achieved precisely zero on the work front.
When the distinction between a traditional workplace and home becomes blurred, it can take a while to recalibrate your settings. This is to be expected, so don’t beat yourself up. Is there a little corner of the house you can carve out solely for work purposes? For the sake of a restful environment (and your back) try not to make it your bed.
Imposing a definitive start and stop time on your day can be helpful while working remotely. It’s important to stay motivated and make any potential flexibility work for you. Are you most productive in the morning, or later in the evening? Schedule your work hours around this. Up to your neck with other commitments in the middle of the day? Block book out some work time at either end.
Make your smartphone work for you
Working from home part of the time doesn’t mean being available to work 24/7. Someone may be emailing you at 10pm, but that may be when they work best and doesn’t mean they warrant an immediate response. This still applies regardless of the world’s current situation.
Not so long ago unless you were chained to your laptop you wouldn’t have received said email until you were back in the office. And guess what? Everyone survived. It may surprise you, but people can wait. If you leave yourself available at all hours, people will naturally assume this is the case going forward.
If you tend to be overwhelmed by voicemail when you don’t answer each and every call, consider this – leave a message on your mobile saying don’t leave me a voicemail, text or email me and I’ll respond when I can.
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Find your focus
When you’ve got too much to do and too much to think about, what do you get done? A little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing. You feel scatterbrained, overwhelmed, and then frustrated at the end of the day that you didn’t achieve all you wanted.
Got an important day ahead? Allocate time to deal with emails in one block to avoid the distracting ping-ping-ping of your inbox. Don’t linger in an unproductive Zoom meeting. Switch your mobile to airplane mode and stay away from social media – it is a time sucking vampire from the planet Procrastination.
Take a real break
Employees are given annual leave for a reason, and some R&R away from work is the best way to return with a sharp head, clear eyes, and motivation to succeed. When you’re getting set to take a break from the office, avoid potential holiday stress by going through a dedicated handover with whoever’s covering for you in your absence.
With adequate preparation, work will survive without you for the duration that you’re gone. Set an out of office on your inbox, change your voicemail message to say you’re on leave, and leave instructions that everything goes to hell in a hand cart, maybe the office can give you a call.
There may be no balmy beachside getaways on foreign shores in our foreseeable future, but immersing yourself fully in your leisure time ensures you’ll return to the office refreshed and raring to go.
Consider this: when it comes to the workplace, you are your own best asset. If you don’t give yourself a little TLC when required and arrive at work frazzled, burnt out and feeling over it, it’s your performance that suffers.
Essentials for employers
It’s essential for employers and managers to strategise for balance and flexibility to bring the best out of their teams. While the playing field has shifted this year, make sure your people know there’s always time available to discuss their circumstances.
It’s crucial to recognise and acknowledge good performance, exceptional results, and when set goals are smashed out of the park. Employees are human beings, and gestures of appreciation go a long way. Don’t stop getting together and celebrating the wins, whether it’s over Zoom or Teams, in person, at the pub or in the office on a Friday afternoon.
Happy employees only bring enthusiasm, more focus, and a great attitude to work and, eventually, are more likely to stay in their roles.
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