Coronavirus has lead to a rapid shift towards work from home in the last several weeks and the working hours are no longer abiding by the classic 9:00 am to 5:00 pm shifts. This transition of work being merely 20 feet from your bedroom, and your companies expecting you to be 24/7 available with more flexibility to multitask, the concept of work-life balance has almost been uprooted to become ‘work-life integration’, with blurring boundaries between the two.
Work seems to be a juggle between personal chores, home-related duty calls, work e-mails, conference calls, news reports, frequent interruptions from spouse or children, house cleaning issues and the list is almost never-ending. Feeling at mercy of time, you may find it taxing to experience a sense of accomplishment even in one of these areas. This results in stress and exhaustion that is referred to as the “Home Office Syndrome”.
With being forced to work in a space that has been associated with feelings of warmth, comfort, safety and relaxation, this syndrome has the power to disrupt your emotional and mental well-being. After all, loss of structure in everyday life has that kind of devastating impact.
8 WAYS TO STAY SANE DURING WORK FROM HOME
- Be Attuned To Your Body – Being drowned under unrealistic work expectations, hyper- focus on work goals, stress about job performance and the fear of losing your job, has increased the likelihood of missing out on your essentials needs. By being in touch with your physiological needs like clean eating, adequate sleep, having an exercise routine amidst others, you can establish clear boundaries distinguishing your work time and home life.
- Eat nutritious meals – Your food is the primary source of nutrients and energy that your body needs to work optimally. Have a healthy diet and don’t resort to snacking for convenience.
- Exercise everyday – In addition to counterbalancing your long sedentary hours of working from a chair or even your bed, exercise also has an additional benefit of being a stress-buster in alleviating all your negative pent up energy. A recent study showed that people who exercise are 23% more productive than those who don’t.
- Get proper sleep – Remote working poorly impacts your sleep patterns and this is a bigger problem than it seems. Sleep deprivation inhibits your cognitive performance and impairs task delivery. Get 7-8 hours of sound sleep every day without fail for optimum functioning at work and home.
- Establish a well-defined Workspace and Work Routine – With the flexibility of working from home, it’s challenging to have a defined workstation or even a routine. It’s almost like you can’t ever “unplug” or call it a day. The temptation to sit just about anywhere comfortable and to keep going back to your laptop to finish one last assignment or to check that one last email is never-ending. Having such blurred boundaries between work and home life leads to poor concentration and substandard job performance.
- Allot a workstation to yourself – Designate a specific area of your home to work every day. By doing so, you will form a psychological association between that place and work, thereby, increasing the chances of you working productively and leaving the rest of your home for its intended use. It’s always a good idea to find a space with minimum traffic flow or distractions.
- Develop a routine – Have a routine similar to the one you had at the office. Try to wake up and conclude your day at similar timings. This will provide you with the necessary predictability, stability and certainty that your life is longing for.
- Dress to work – Even though you’re working from home, dressing for work is a good practice to mentally signal yourself that it’s your time to work. Also, once you end your workday, and change back to home clothes, avoid checking work calls or emails. This will help you to maintain clear boundaries between work and home.
- Don’t overfill your cup – As tempted you may feel to be flexible and ‘do-it-all’ as you work from home, it’s almost impossible to do so. Strongly refuse to commit to anything that will overload you or disrupt your work-life balance. Accept that there is a limitation to what you can do. And, most importantly learn to say NO for yourself.
- Develop air-tight boundaries – Establish and make peace with strong boundaries in your head so you don’t feel lured to outdo yourself. Piling up tasks that you couldn’t say no to in the first place – such as laundry, preparing a meal, finishing a project, or reporting to a deadline – can lead to self-perpetuating feelings of anxiety and worthlessness.
- Say Goodbye to Guilt – Treat this attitude ‘of knowing how much to take in’ as a sign of strength and not a weakness. Say, for instance, you decided to not schedule work meetings outside of your assigned work time, then just don’t! It takes courage to step up for yourself and to ensure your overall well-being. So, if at all you feel guilty of not doing as much, just remember that it was the tortoise and not the rabbit who won the race.
- Empty your cup every once in a while – It’s important to unplug and come up for air regularly. Humans weren’t created to be desk-bound so always make it a point to add breathers between meetings. Just look out your window, call a friend, eat a snack, move around, or do yoga/meditation. This will empty your mental clutter a little and create more space for upcoming work.
- Focus on one thing at a time – Having your attention on one task at a time enhances your productivity while keeping you calm and organised. This also ensures that you give your best to the task at hand, and don’t waste your time planning and segregating different things you have to do within a stipulated time.
- Make a To-Do List – Write down precise bullet points of tasks you have to accomplish every day. Designate specific time slots for each task. Once you complete that task, highlight it and then move on to the next task. This will help you stay focussed.
- Avoid Multi-tasking – Despite your belief of being good at it, multi-tasking increases the likelihood of both, mental and physical errors, depleting your productivity and job satisfaction.
- Eliminate distractions – It is a common practice to check your social media in the middle of some work you’re doing, or to just randomly hear your family watching your favourite movie which will tempt you to go watch a scene or two. However, if you do so, you’ll end up taking twice as long to finish your task and your work will be only half as good.
- Delegate work fairly – One of the most essential lessons you can learn in this time is to practice kindness. Understand that everyone is struggling for different reasons, and the last thing they want to feel is jeopardised. So, avoid overburdening yourself or others with more work than what’s manageable. And, remember that delegating work is a sign of a confident leader who can identify the right ability for the right kind of work.
- Share your workload – Spread the workload evenly and balance it out when things fall too harshly on you. One is a weaker number than 2, 3 or 4 so don’t shy away from asking for help when you feel out of resources or energy. Sharing your load every now and then enhances productivity.
- Know what you can delegate – Prioritise your entire to-do list in three broad categories, say A, B and C, where you place various tasks in decreasing order of their importance or impact. Be wise to assign tasks that fall in categories B and C so you have more time to effectively complete tasks in category A.
- Help your coworkers/teammates – Check-in with your team members to tell them that they aren’t alone in this, thereby, creating a healthy work environment with enriching bonds. While allotting tasks, consider the additional responsibilities that your coworker or employees are shouldering like taking care of an elderly parent, having small children, etc. This practice is not just socially abiding, but it is also a great organisational strategy which enhances the quality of life and thus the job performance of your teammates.
- Recognise when you experience Burnout – As you’re doing your best to adapt to a new ‘normal’ way of working, be sure to acknowledge when you see signs of burnout. With an overdose of work, both professionally and otherwise at home, minimising exhaustion should be your primary focus. So, redirect your efforts on what’s important and slowly learn to let go of the rest. Don’t try to do everything at once and opt to work smart than just working hard.
- Learn What it looks like – Burnout impacts more than just your mind – it works it’s way into your behaviour (poor sleep, feeling overly at the edge, apathy), emotions (anxiety, fear, or irritability), cognitive abilities (poor concentration and overthinking), and physical abilities (fatigue and lack of energy).
- Mindful distancing from technology – Greater exposure to technology like smartphones and laptops make it tougher for you to disconnect from work or doesn’t let you “unplug” mentally. It is, therefore, important to limit tech-exposure so you can be more connected to the present.
- Practice Stress Management – Just like your physical body, your mental health needs fitness too. With consistent practice of stress management techniques like relaxation training, guided imagery, yoga, mindfulness meditation and more, you can bounce back faster from stress and even prevent its long-standing negative effects.
- Foster Self Compassion – You can only give what you have. So, it’s crucial to put on that oxygen mask on yourself first. Pay close heed to how you talk to yourself when no one is around. Be kindhearted towards yourself and give yourself the same love you give to others so freely.
- Be empathetic towards yourself – The times are tough so every time you make any mistake or forget something, don’t just start belittling yourself and your abilities. Instead, shower yourself with compassion and understand that you’re human too.
- Give yourself Pep-talks you need – Like anyone else, you too need nurturing support and love. In case you feel like no one understands you, be that person for yourself and give yourself the talk you need to feel good and uplifted again.
- Practice positive self-affirmations – Give yourself daily reminders that ‘its okay to not feel okay’ and ‘you are strong enough to pass this storm’. With constant reminders, these affirmations become a part of your inner voice and you begin to believe in them.
- Redefine Social Isolation – It is ideal to practice social isolation for your safety during the lockdown. However, it’s vital to maintain social contact virtually. If you cut off connections with loved ones, you will eventually become more vulnerable to the onset of stress, anxiety and other mental health concerns. This is so because having friends, family and others in times of crisis, gives you a broader focus, a buffer against tough times, and even enhances your quality of life.
- Integrate more time for virtual contact – Try to make time for people you love. Call your co-workers, friends, and family members to touch base about their safety and daily life. Let them know that you’re there for them if the need arises. And, remind them that you are all in this together.
- Wisely manage your screen time – As much as you can use technology to connect to others who aren’t physically with you, at times, it’s good for you to protect your personal time from electronic leashes and be wise to know when to keep them aside. By doing this, you take out more time for people you’re physically present with, without being glued to your devices. Talk to one another and share your thoughts and plans with them.
- Connect with your hobbies/interests – Pick up a new hobby or re-connect with an old one. As per your interest, you may engage in artistic pursuits, play video games, simply dance or sing a little. This will reduce your stress by keeping you engaged in something that you thoroughly enjoy. Also, it’ll let you relax and take solace in activities that aren’t associated with work or other responsibilities.
Take Away Message – Eventually, COVID-19 will run its course and then, perhaps, you will all return to normalcy. Until then, remember that you have the power to control your day, your work productivity, and your mental well-being. Take small steps and work your way through establishing a reasonable work schedule in a designated workspace at your home. Build-in specific time for your chores and loved ones. Above all, give yourself some credit for the efforts you’re making and understand that you’re work in progress!
Share what little steps you are taking to establish a work-life balance in the comments below.