Considerations for Managing your Work and Life at Home
By Ally Smit
It seems like ages ago that we were all heading into the office each day, dressed in our business best and ready to start the day with a thermos of coffee in hand. Some of us may have had to battle a daily commute into the office, whereas others may have depended on buses or Skytrain to lead their way in. We would start the morning by settling into our office space, preparing our second cup of coffee for the day perhaps while turning to our co-workers and catching up before tackling the day’s work.
It’s May 2020 and your work routine has likely turned upside down due to social distancing efforts. Your business casual attire has likely become your cleanest pair of sweatpants; your commute to the office involves the five-second walk from your bed to your desk, and your morning chat with co-workers has turned into a few words to those you co-habit with or your pet before opening up your laptop.
If you are not familiar with working from home, then you have likely experienced a lot of ups and downs over the past few weeks. When your home turns into your personal office, it can be challenging to find a balance between managing your work and managing your life under the same roof. Here are some considerations for helping you find a balance between life and work at home:
Set Ground Rules & Carve Out Workspaces
If you live in a shared environment, consider sitting down with the other members of your household and discuss ground rules and expectations. Work together to set boundaries in order to reduce tension during the day and clarify communal expectations. For example, how should you obtain the attention of someone while they are on a video call? Is it appropriate to interrupt them by knocking on the door, or standing in front of them waving your arms? Should everyone be asked to wear headphones while on a video call? Why or why not? Discussing these items ahead of time can help you avoid tense situations in the future.
Carve out workspaces by assigning locations in the home where each person can work or learn in a quiet, distraction-free environment. If possible, establish an extra workstation that any individual can move to if they need a change of space. If you have limited technology resources in your household, discuss how you will share the limited resources amongst those who require it. If a strategy or schedule is not developed in advance, tensions can easily arise. Consider a shared weekly calendar system for the shared laptop to be accessible for specific meeting times each person may have booked.
The most important consideration however is that you set your ground rules and expectations based on your personal household requirements. Your ground rules will depend greatly on the members of your household and their daily remote duties, whereas the established workspaces will depend on the amount of space and resources within your home.
Establish Routines & Wellness Breaks
Whether you live alone or with others, it’s important to establish new routines and schedule wellness breaks to get through the day. If you have ever spoken with a remote employee about their routines while working from home, they may have shared a variety of practices to promote their productivity. Some may swear by showering every morning before working hours begin, while others may state dressing in business attire as their secret to success. While these practices may help you, it’s important to recognize that routines are not a one-size-fits-all package, and it’s important to figure out what works for you … usually through trial and error. For ideas on how you can establish your own personal routine, check out The Muse’s article 16 Better Ways to Start Your Day (That Have Nothing to Do With Breakfast).
It is important to consider setting a timer or schedule time in your calendar in order to take wellness breaks throughout the day. Nourishment breaks, a virtual yoga session, or simply getting outside for a short brisk walk will help you maintain a healthy work routine at home. When we are in an office there are usually many distractions to pull us away from our work, whether it be a lunch break or a co-worker coming over to chat. However, when working at home it can become easy to get sucked up in your work and forget how much time has passed.
Find your Flow & Share Best Practices
It may take some time to decide what your best work routine will be and how to manage your overall productivity. While you work to establish your new normal, encourage patience and honest conversations with those around you, sharing any frustrations, or discussing opportunities to learn from each other on how to stay focused while tackling work responsibilities.
Once you’ve figured out a battle rhythm, share the good news! Share your best practices with your teammates or friends and encourage them to share their best practices as well. Figuring out how to manage work and life from home is an ongoing challenge, and everyone handles it differently. Your friends may have figured out a strategy that works perfectly for your household and vice versa.
There is no expert guide on how you can successfully manage workload and life while working from home. Every individual’s situation is different and figuring out what works best is a process of trial and error. The more time and energy you allocate towards setting ground rules, establishing routines, and sharing best practices, the closer you can get to achieving a healthy balance between your work and home life.