How to Stay Focused and Maintain Work/Life Balance When Working From Home
Working from home was often perceived by cynical bosses as a way for employees to take an unofficial day off. However, the Covid-19 pandemic saw many workers forced into home working and this displayed to employers and their staff that it was a feasible alternative.
Now more workers are seeking flexible working options and bosses are no longer suspicious of remote working.
In this blog, written by our Digital Marketing Assistant Dolly Osborne, we give you some tips on how to make working from home work for you.
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Even as the Covid-19 restrictions have lifted and people are returning to offices, the amount of remote workers in the UK is on the increase. Workers have seen the value that working from home can bring them and employers have seen maintained (if not increased) productivity from remote workers, with the added bonus of being able to reduce overheads in maintaining an office space.
A remote workforce can give you increased flexibility, can mean you have a wider net for recruitment and can hugely contribute to the happiness of your workforce. Whilst it is unlikely we have seen the end of office-based working altogether, home working is becoming more common and more popular.
The benefits of working from home
There are numerous benefits to remote working. Obviously, the explosion in popularity occurred when we needed to sustain business operations whilst being able to social distance during the pandemic, but the benefits existed far before, and continue to exist well after, this crisis.
One of the greatest benefits of a company offering remote working is the skilled employees you will reach who can’t work traditional hours. In particular, remote working benefits members of the disabled community who may struggle not only to physically access traditional workplaces but who also have symptoms such as pain or fatigue that make the flexibility of working hours a rare necessity. Another key demographic suited to working from home are parents or carers; here you have a group of people who need to build their working day around the schedule of their dependants and by working from home, and cutting the commute, they are saving valuable time they can then use elsewhere.
In addition, home working can reduce the social anxieties that one might encounter in a workplace, especially if you are around micro-managers.
One of the best things about remote working though is that it often leads to increased productivity. Perhaps by cutting the commute from your working day, you are able to maintain focus for longer, or you may find there are fewer distractions at home.
Now whilst we may all claim to be ‘a highly motivated self-starter’ on our CV, that might not quite translate when we try to adapt to remote working. Your previous office may have been super laidback and informal yet it still required a commitment to drag yourself through the daily commute and be there and conscious during working hours.
I have a sticker on my laptop that reads ‘Not one to brag but I made it out of bed’. It’s only partially a joke. My bed is firmly my first love and a lot of people who choose home working will have very compelling reasons why a 9 am start isn’t going to happen! Whether it’s a disability, child commitments, or late-night hobbies that make you a late riser, alas rise you must, and when you are working from home the only person who can get you going is you.
Self-discipline isn’t just about getting you to your desk either. The home worker needs to be able to prioritise their workload, timetable their working day and ensure they remember to eat, drink and take moments to relax without the prompting of the smell of your colleague’s lunch or someone announcing a coffee run.
Don't be too hard on yourself
It can be strange when you go from working in a formal environment to working from home and at times you will probably find yourself feeling like you are skiving off. Don’t beat yourself up every time you take a moment to stroke your cat or you find yourself lost in a daydream. There are plenty of distractions in regular offices, though sadly often not cats, and no reasonable employer expects constant intense concentration. The water cooler chat cliché exists because humans interact with other humans, and actually these moments of reverie and relaxation we take in our working day are much-needed breaks to ensure we can be productive for more than two hours.
When working on your own schedule you obviously need to be tracking the hours that you spend working but don’t feel like you need to work overtime for every drink break, loo visit or cat petting session. You don’t work relentlessly and robotically when you are in the office and so you don’t need to impose draconian rules on homeworking. You generally know what work you need to get done in your day and can be trusted to assess whether you are completing what you need to. Your boss trusts you, so trust yourself.
Working from home can often mean that the hours you can work become more flexible. Some roles still require a 9 to 5 (or other set hours), but in lots of jobs you’ll be able to work to your own schedule. The upside to this is you can work when you are able, and at any time, the downside of this is that you can work at any time. Just because you can pop on and send that email whilst dinner is cooking doesn’t mean you should. It is best if you set yourself a period, or periods, when you will be working and stick to this. That way you won’t run the risk of feeling like you are always working. Not to mention a short period of focused, committed attention is likely to be much more productive than constantly half-working.
As well as setting clear times for yourself for when you will be working you may need to communicate your schedule to others. Friends, partners, and children all need to understand that just because you are home doesn’t mean you’re available. If you are working, they need to give you the time and space to do so without interruptions. You also may need to tell managers and colleagues when you will be available to communicate and when you are not.
Find a designated workspace
When I became a parent I decided that it was important for my mental health to have a space in the evenings that wasn’t covered in toys or the general detritus of caring for a small human. Being able to have that separate unwinding space once the hard work was done for the day was super important to my ability to relax and feel like me the human, not me the mother. I now try to apply that same logic to life as a remote freelancer.
Whilst I acknowledge that space is at a premium in most of our lives today and a separate workspace might be difficult to find, there are little habits you can adopt to help to keep your work time and downtime clearly separate. Ideally, you should put your computer away when you clock off, but if that isn’t possible then you could set a login on your computer that you use just for work — that way you won’t be tempted to reply to any emails that might come in or ‘just take another quick look’ at the work you did in the day! Put any apps you use for work in a separate folder and switch off notifications when you finish working. Once again, set boundaries with any colleagues who may contact you; the occasional evening message is unlikely to cause too much stress but if it moves beyond that to a regular intrusion then either give contact times to your colleagues or mute any message streams when you aren’t working.
Work-life balance is really important and can feel harder to maintain when your living space is also your workspace. But believe me, if you don’t take some steps to keep the two separate then you are on a sure road to stress and burnout.
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Claire is Head of Marketing at Happy. She has worked at Happy since 2016, and is responsible for Happy's marketing strategy, website, social media and more. Claire first heard about Happy in 2012 when she attended a mix of IT and personal development courses. These courses were life-changing and she has been a fan of Happy ever since. She has a personal blog at lecari.co.uk.
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