Working from home: A guide to creating a healthy and productive workspace at home Pt 4
Homeworking during Co-Vid and Beyond
Maintaining a work-life balance
There’s a lot of talk about work-life balance. It seems quite an elusive thing to achieve. We all know how work stresses can travel home with us, or what it’s like when home life affects our productivity at work. But it can be an even bigger challenge when your home is also your place of work.
After all, it’s where most remote workers would prefer to be. The State of Remote Work 2020 report shows that remote workers primarily work in the following locations:
So how do you master the balancing act? The aim is to have a productive working day, one that doesn’t interrupt your own downtime at home. It’s not an easy task, but one that everyone working from home should aim for. You might never complete it, but you’ll definitely feel better for trying.
Overcoming the problems with working from home
Struggling to switch off after work? You’re not alone. Typically people use a commute to decompress from the working day. But the lines blur when you work where you live. Taking the stresses of that day home with you is pretty easy when you just go from one room to the next. It’s just one of the problems remote workers need to tackle:
Being unable to switch off from home
You need to create as much separation between your home and work lives as possible. Try not to use your phone for work reasons and avoid using your work computer for personal tasks. When you go to work or go home, you want to feel like there’s distance between the two. You can try replicating a commute by going on a walk round the block, for example. Try and put activities into your routine that either allow you to prepare for the working day or unwind from it.
The idea of being constantly available
Talk to your employer about expectations on replying. If you have flexible working hours, there should be some understanding that people may or may not be available during conventional work hours. Healthy boundaries are important. Remember you can also schedule replies on most email providers if you work anti-social hours and would rather it land in someone’s inbox in the morning.
Not everyone has a spare room to use as an office. They rely on a working ‘zone’, so interruptions can be inevitable. The important thing is to have a dedicated space – even if you have to set it up and put it away each day. You also need to talk to the people you live with, so they know when you’re working. It can be tricky with younger kids around, so you may need to rely on a sign if you’re on a call. Remember you can also spend time in a coffee shop or library, for example, to have a break from your home environment if needed.
Insufficient IT or internet capabilities
Some companies will set aside a budget to make sure all their employees have the right equipment and connections at home. Before you make the move to home working, you will need to check your connection is up to scratch. You might be able to upgrade, or you might have to change providers. You could chat to your neighbours to see if they’re happy with their connection, or use a broadband and mobile coverage checker to compare.
Keeping up concentration and focus
No-one can keep up focus for hours on end. You have to give yourself breaks. Whether that’s organising meetings to break up the day or going on a walk at lunch, you need to give your brain a rest. At home, you could do a few chores before returning to your desk. Just be careful you don’t get too distracted from your work.
A lack of socialising or workplace culture
We’ve explored some tools you can use to keep in touch, but ultimately, it’s down to effort. You have to reach out and keep in touch with colleagues. Does your company have a social committee? Are there events you could organise, either virtually or in the office? Also, consider how you could use the extra time you save by not commuting to get in touch with friends or start a new hobby.
No problem is insurmountable. But it’s important you don’t struggle alone at home with these issues or any other other. That’s when feelings of isolation can really escalate. If there’s anything you’re unhappy with or finding difficult, talk to your team, your manager or your HR department to come up with a solution that works for everyone.
What to do if you’re experiencing workplace stress
While the odd stressful day or a certain amount of pressure may be natural in the workplace, no-one’s work should make them feel regularly stressed. Creating balance is important as without it, work stresses can be overwhelming and affect all aspects of our lives.
Signs you could be experiencing workplace stress include:
Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive
You could also be taking more sick days or have noticed an impact on your performance – delivering work late, for example. Nobody wants to do a bad job at work, and this guilt can end up adding to your stresses. If you feel like things are starting to get on top of you, be proactive about it.
Although when our stress levels are high, we might feel uncertain, there are ways to regain control. These include:
Talking to your employer
Workplaces vary. Some operate with small teams and it can be easily noticeable if someone is feeling stressed. Within larger operations, things may go unnoticed. But it’s up to you to talk to someone – whether that’s your manager or a dedicated HR department. The company has an incentive to tackle workplace stress and will want you feeling better. They could suggest things like:
Clarifying your job description and expectations
A lot of stress can come from a lack of clarity over job duties and responsibilities. You may have had a lot of tasks added to your workload which shouldn’t really be there. Sorting this out can reduce some stress.
Changing your responsibilities
It might be that a change of duties is actually what’s needed. Something new can make all the difference, breathing new life into your working routine.
Taking time off
You may need a complete break from work. Either holiday or temporary sick leave will completely remove you from work. It can help you gain perspective and return to work feeling refreshed.
In an attempt to reduce workplace stress, you might also want to tackle how you respond to challenging situations too. For example, at work, a lot of things are beyond our control. We spend far too much time focusing on those and stressing ourselves out. Instead, we should be looking at the things we can control, including how we react to problems.
Everyone will experience stress differently, but the following things may help you tackle why you’re feeling under pressure:
Are you striving for perfectionism?
Perfect is unrealistic. You are essentially setting yourself up for failure, which can result in stress. Instead, just aim to do your best.
Are you fixating on the negative side of things?
Try and flip negative thoughts into something positive. For example, praising yourself for small accomplishments, rather than criticising yourself for not doing enough.
Could you see this in a humorous way?
Laughing at things always lightens the mood. It can definitely relieve stress. Although you should remain professional, it doesn’t mean you have to take everything too seriously.
Could you tidy up your surroundings?