WFH for the Long Haul
How to establish work-life balance when your normal schedule isn’t returning anytime soon.
Dave has been working early mornings, nights, and weekends for months now. Working from home has shattered the boundaries between his work and personal life, and he doesn’t know how to rebuild them.
With one day blending into the next during the pandemic, and many people juggling paid work and unpaid labor such as increased childcare and elder care, time to recharge is elusive. As many as 65% of workers say that, now that they work from home, they’re putting in longer hours than pre-pandemic; in fact, the average workday has lengthened by more than 45 minutes following stay-at-home orders.
But remote work is here to stay, and almost one year into the pandemic, it’s time to make it sustainable. “Some of the drawbacks of remote work include isolation, less visibility, more distractions, and difficulties developing relationships with colleagues,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.
Here are our tips for maintaining productivity and sanity when you’re at home for the long haul.
Increase your social touchpoints.
Unfortunately, maintaining work friendships takes a lot more effort when you don’t cross paths in the hall. But letting them fall by the wayside can hurt your happiness and your career. If you have some time, start a virtual gathering of colleagues, perhaps from a mix of departments. You can use the time to have fun, share tips, and network internally.
If your schedule is squeezed, career experts suggest doing a mix of the following:
- Schedule 15-minute one-on-one calls
- Send email updates and ask how colleagues are doing
- Send holiday cards or just-because cards
- Comment on people’s LinkedIn updates and write your own
- Share updates via team collaboration sites
- Acknowledge others’ important events and successes
Take care of your mind and body.
If you haven’t already, invest in some exercise equipment and hit the home gym. Many workout apps provide 10- or 15-minute workouts that can get your endorphins flowing. Spending a short time meditating or journaling can help you clear your mind and process your thoughts, too. “Find a practice that keeps you centered,” Olson says.
And don’t forget about humor as a stress-relief tool. Watch funny videos on YouTube and allow yourself to laugh at the absurd moments in life.
Create a distinct area to work.
Working at the kitchen island is a recipe for distractions. Repurpose a quiet corner or a room where you can close a door for privacy. Career experts recommend getting proper office equipment that allows for comfort and good posture. And make the space personal and enjoyable: feed your five senses with artwork, family photos, a scent diffuser, plants, and good lighting.
Remember your “why” for work-life balance.
Establish work hours with a cut-off time, and keep a Post-It note on your desk with the reasons why time off is important to you: time with the kids, finishing a book, getting a full night’s sleep. To make the most of the time you are on, career experts recommend setting up agreements with your household for when you’re off-limits.
“If you start to borrow time from your evenings and weekends, that's the path to burnout,” Olson says. “There’s an ebb and a flow for all of nature, including your life and work rhythm.”