Like most employees, you’re probably used to leaving work at the office when the day ends and coming home to relax. With a sudden rise in working from home, that distinction no longer exists for many people. “Leaving the office” may just mean closing your laptop. When your work is always at home with you, how can you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
First of all, it’s crucial to understand that a work-life balance is essential. Just as no one can live their whole lives wasting time, it’s equally ludicrous to expect someone to dedicate every waking moment to work. You should work to live, not live to work. None of this changes just because you happen to be working at home now–it just means you need to adapt to your new environment. Here are a few ideas that can help you adjust.
Stick to a Defined Schedule
Days at the office tend to be pretty well-scheduled, while working from home has the stereotype of constant breaks, drinking during work hours, or even not getting dressed. The relaxing nature of working at home is certainly a welcome break from the office. However, if you constantly approach it too casually, your work will suffer.
You’re working from home–you control your work schedule! Take advantage of this to write up a schedule that works for you. How long will each task take? When is that project due? Then stick to that schedule. Having a definite routine will keep you from being too casual about your work and help you stay productive.
Additionally, never underestimate the habit of getting ready for work every morning. Sure, you don’t have to rush to be in the car by a certain time. But even the simple acts of showering, getting dressed, and cooking breakfast can wake you up and prepare you for the day. It also signals to you that it’s time for work. Maintain as much of your normal morning routine as possible so you don’t lose all your habits.
Set Aside a Separate Work Space
Plenty of long-term remote workers take their work laptops to bed to get their tasks done. After all, it’s the comfiest part of the house! But this isn’t a great idea for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. You already associate your bedroom with sleep, relaxing, and winding down at the end of the day. In other words, your bedroom is where you ultimately “come home to” after work. Bringing your work into the bedroom breaks down that association and can make it feel like you can never fully get away from work. Additionally, some evidence suggests that this can reduce the quality of your sleep, leading to even more problems.
The best solution is to dedicate a space to work and work only. Whether you set up camp at the kitchen table or at a desk, do your best to use that space for work and avoid taking it anywhere else in your home. Dedicate a home office and stick to it.
Take Breaks Throughout the Day
This applies even in the office. Sitting down too long can be physically uncomfortable and certainly does your body no favors. About once every hour, take a short break from work to move around. It can be as simple as getting up to use the bathroom or get a glass of water. Alternatively, you can combine a break with your own household chores by running to the grocery store. Whatever you choose, set aside time for a mental and physical break from your job.
Pro Tip: Doctors generally agree that if you have a sedentary job, you should try to move around at least once every hour. This gets your blood flowing and increases your attentiveness during the workday.
Working Remotely Long-Term
The coronavirus pandemic led to a massive increase of working from home, and it’s unclear how long this period will last. Some people found the freedom of working at home a dream come true. Others find it difficult to be productive or to keep work from taking over. The best thing anyone can do for now is find a setup at home that works for them. Stick to it and hold on until the world settles down again.
Join the conversation to see how other employees are handling working from home.