How to: Get work-life balance right
The concept of working from home is quite a modern phenomenon. Rewind 50 years and most bosses would have scoffed at the thought of an employee completing their day’s work from the comfort of their own home.
These days however, it’s a mutually beneficially arrangement for employees to work from home so there are more people waking up and working from their spare room than ever before.
For all the freedom and perks that come from working at home there are a few drawbacks to this situation that can’t be ignored. Achieving a work/life balance is difficult enough in a standard office environment and home offices create a unique set of health and wellness issues that aren’t relevant to the typical nine to five grind.
Here are a few ways to fight the battle between work and life when you work from home.
1. Take holidays and long weekends
It can be very tempting to use long weekends and holidays to catch up on work but just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should work in your off time.
If a traditional office would be closed – in the evening after 6pm, on weekends or on public holidays – then you should not be working in your home office. No excuses.
Taking your allocated time off will make you more productive in the long run.
Working hours: Clock off when you work from home
2. Use your office space for working only
Creating boundaries is essential to maintaining a healthy existence when you work from home. If you have a spare room that you use as an office, try not to use it for anything else.
If you have an office/lounge room it can be difficult to completely work or completely relax in the room.
Think about it this way – would you snuggle up in a corporate office in your pyjamas and watch a movie? No? Then don’t do it in your home office.
Note: Space restrictions sometimes mean this is unavoidable so just do the best you can. If you work from a laptop, pack it away properly at the end of the day to signal the change over from work to relaxation.
3. Fake good office practices
One of the major drawbacks of working from home is missing out on all the incidental good health practices you get from working in an office. These include walks to local coffee shops, walks to the post office, lunch with colleagues, proper morning tea breaks and work-organised challenges and events.
If you don’t conscientiously try to fake these practices you’ll miss out on the benefits of regular breaks and social interaction. You need to make the effort to leave your house as often as possible and once a week meet a colleague or fellow at-home-worker for lunch.
Working from home can be socially and physically isolating and you need to make an effort to combat this.
Make the effort to leave your house as often as possible.
4. Schedule time to spend with family and friends
If you struggle to find the time to spend with your family and friends you must schedule it in. For example if you’re working on a big project, it’s easy to just keep working on it through the night but if you have a movie date with your spouse or an arrangement to meet your mates for pub trivia, it will force you to take time off.
Never feel guilty about taking time off. It’s essential for your focus and rest.
Sanity first: Work from home without losing the plot
5. Know when you’re wearing your ‘home hat’ vs your ‘work hat’
Many people who work from home list ‘wearing their pyjamas all day’ as one of the perks but this action can be extremely detrimental to your work practices.
You should get dressed properly every day and make sure you behave in a work appropriate manner. It may seem like you’re enforcing unnecessary rules on yourself but without boundaries you’ll never really know when you’re ‘working’ or ‘at home’ because they’re technically the same place.
For example try not to get into the habit of working from bed; it’s the perfect example of wearing your work hat in the wrong place.
Try not to get into the habit of working from bed.
6. Do not work when you’re sick
If you are sick, do not do any work. Don’t even check your emails. If you’re too sick to work in a traditional office, you’re too sick to work in your home office.
Take the time to properly rest or it may take you twice as long to get better.
7. Wind down
When you work in a traditional office, the end of the day wind down is easy. You close the door to your office, leave the building, spend the commute on the way home slowly unwinding from your day and then by the time you get home you’re ready to get on with your evening activities.
This is much harder to achieve when you work from home, so you need to create a wind down ritual.
It might be a run around the block, making a cup of tea or reading a few pages of your book but it’s important to have a segue activity that breaks up the work day from your home evening.
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