10 Tips to Maintain a Work/Life Balance

10 Tips to Maintain a Work/Life Balance

10 Tips to Maintain a Work/Life Balance 

For many leaders, managers and some employees who are able to work from home, the boundaries between work and ‘play’ have become even more blurred since the onset of the pandemic.  In March 2020 almost overnight many workers had to transform their spare bedroom/garage/corner of a kitchen in to their office, or agree with their partner who would have the ‘home office’ as their dedicated work space.  As one supplier said to me during week one: ‘I haven’t even got a stapler at home, let alone a desk!’  However, most people adapted well and in doing so surprised the world of business, leading to many questions around the future sustainability of large offices.  What many organizations at first saw as a short-term solution has transformed the future of work, with hybrid models and an increase in remote and flexible working becoming the new normal.  

Even though productivity didn't dip in the first few months of lockdowns, it is now apparent that some home workers struggled with post lockdown fatigue, 'Zoom fatigue', uncertainty fatigue, procrastination and 'languishing' has become a common term for those who were trying to deal with a sense of stagnation and emptiness, missing their office, colleagues and holidays.

For managers and their team members, who were already extremely busy pre-Covid, the impact of the pandemic threw up a host of new challenges on top of BAU and ongoing projects.  Workloads increased and so did working hours with many managers working evenings and weekends to catch up on emails, only taking a few days off and many waving goodbye to their annual Summer holidays abroad.  As very few workers wanted to ‘waste’ their annual leave by spending it at home decorating the spare room, they carried it over to the next year. So it's no surprise that employers are expressing concern regarding stress, burnout and mental health issues have become even more prevalent in the past three years.  

So, how can we create and maintain a work/life balance in the new normal and especially when remote working?

1. Create a Routine:

We are creatures of habit and need routine.  Maintaining some sort of routine with specific physical and diarized boundaries between work and ‘play’ is important. 

2. Create a ‘Virtual Commute’:

The morning drive, ride, cycle or walk to the office created physical distance between the home and work; it was often a time to plan the day ahead, review it and start to unwind on the way home.  Walking from the bedroom/kitchen in to a home office or corner of the lounge doesn’t have the same effect.  Add in a partner or children vying for your attention and conflict, confusion and stress can ensue.  So, if you can, try to go for a walk or run in the morning to set yourself up for the day.  Or, if you’re more of an owl than a lark, then do a gentle workout at home before you sit at your desk.  After work, try to spend at least 15 minutes reviewing the day by going for a quick walk or run if you can before you begin family time, or just sit silently at your desk to reflect on the day’s work before you ‘put your parenting hat’ back on.

3. Communicate even more with your Partner/Family/Friends:

Even though I’ve worked from home for many years, I had to explain to my furloughed friends very early on during the first lockdown that I was still working and so couldn't answer their calls throughout the day so we scheduled them for the evenings and weekends.  Explaining to your loved ones that, even though you are at home, you still have to work is important.  After a full day of online meetings you may also have had to explain that you didn’t fancy filling every evening with more screen time at Zoom parties or virtual quiz nights!

4. Avoid ‘Screen Fatigue:’

During a typical working day many managers didn’t used to spend all their time glued to their screens.  Usually they were moving from meeting room to meeting room and having a few informal but crucial cross-functional or skip level conversations in corridors or by the water cooler or coffee machine.  Working from home has resulted in an increase in meetings and for some this meant over 10 hours in front of the laptop.  ‘Screen fatigue,’ tired eyes and ‘fuzzy heads’ became commonplace during lockdowns.  So, it’s more important than ever to review which meetings are essential, change the frequency of them and allow for 5 - 15 minutes in-between each one.  Start meetings at quarter past the hour and hold them for 45 minutes to ensure regular breaks.

5. Take Your Breaks:

Make sure that you are not sedentary for hours upon hours a day in virtual meetings and take regular breaks; go for a short walk if you can, sit in the garden, or do some exercise in the kitchen or lounge.  You’ll be more engaged and productive as a result. 

6. Block out Time in Your Diary:

If a number of people have access to your online diary, make sure that you diarize your regular breaks and block out time during the day to actually do your work and for strategic planning time; this means you can avoid having to work longer in the evenings and at weekends just to catch up with emails and write reports.

7. Try to finish work at a Set Time:

Even before lockdown many managers would log on in the evenings or be available until they slept, especially those working for global organizations.  It’s important to communicate with your international colleagues what your working pattern is to avoid the ‘California Effect’ of staying up late to respond to emails or calls in Pacific Time.  Managing expectations of your key stakeholders is also key to establishing boundaries. If you work with both Australia and Amercia, as I do, then don't diarize one early morning meeting with Sydney and a late one with San Francisco on the same day, if you can.  Start one day earlier, followed by another later to avoid doing more than a 15 hour working day!

8. Unplug:

If you’ve physically left the ‘home office’ and are dedicating time to children or a ‘date night’ then switch off the notifications of your work emails on your phone if you can.  Similarly, do so when you are exercising.  Then try to switch off all devices at least 1 – 2 hours before bedtime.  Again, if you can, have one day a week without work emails or, better still, any emails. 

9. Plan Future Events:

It's important to have regular non-work activities booked in advance so that you have something to look forward to, especially when you're dealing with a heavy workload or tight deadlines.  So, at the start of the year, try to block out your annual leave days so that you do end up taking them.

10. Regroup:

A lot of managers have been in Emergency/Crisis mode over the past three years and now need and want time to become more strategic.  It’s important to take time out to reflect, to reassess not just work priorities, but also to re-evaluate your personal priorities.  Then commit to making one change to your behaviour or habit in order to progress some of your personal goals to create a more balanced life and to find more enjoyment.

'After a rollercoaster few months, thank you for providing so much support to ensure I create more boundaries and have some sort of work/life integration, despite the daily international video calls.  As I'm more refreshed, I'm better able to horizon-scan and delegate more to the team; consequently I can provide more value to the organization.'  Global Leader

About Jill Maidment

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