This time last year many of us were taking our first steps into a strange new world of remote working. It was new, it was exciting, it was different, and for some it was a struggle.
But 12 months on, remote working is old hat, and although some have returned to the old ways of office based working, there is no doubt that remote working is here to stay.
So what have we learned in the last 12 months? If you are one of those who is still struggling with remote working read on.
For happier and more productive days working remotely, it’s worth putting measures in place to minimise the inevitable work/life blur caused by working from home
The challenges of homeworking
Three hours. That’s the additional amount of time those new to remote work log each day while working from home, according to a survey completed by Bloomberg earlier this year. There may be many benefits to remote working – but this certainly isn’t one of them.
It’s part of what experts are calling the ‘work/life blur’. When you can be at your desk straight after breakfast and take your laptop downstairs with you after dinner, the workday extends from the usual nine-to-five to ‘always on’. This leaves many professionals feeling as though they are never entirely at work, nor fully away from it either – a state that leads to increased stress and worry.
Clearly there are benefits to insisting on a separation between work and your personal life. According to research at Purdue University in the US, effectively managing work-life boundaries can “reduce role conflict and enhance the wellbeing of employees, teams, and organisations”. It can also reduce stress, prevent burnout, and enhance mental and physical health.
If you’ve realised you need to start more effectively separating your work and home life, here are 5 rules to put in place to avoid the work/life blur.
1. Fake a commute
You may have found elements of your pre-Covid commute annoying, but at least it was ‘your’ time. And while you’ve since gained back time by not having to commute, chances are you’ve lost that me-time, too. Reclaim it by giving yourself 15-minutes each morning to step outside your house and take a walk around the block before starting your workday if possible. The fresh air and a chance to get the blood pumping will set you up for the day. When you cross back over the threshold, then it’s time to get down to work.
2. Make your tech work for you
Technology is great for synchronising all the various parts of your life – but it can work against you when you want to mentally separate your work and home lives. If possible, create separate work and personal email accounts, phone numbers – or even phones – and turn off notifications on your work devices at the end of the workday.
3. Schedule a lunch break
Say no to 1pm meetings. It can be hard to stop for a meal in the middle of the day – especially when you have plenty of demands on your time. So, start treating lunchtime like another meeting – one that starts on time and that you can’t get out of going to. Put it into your calendar and set your out-of-office. Then step away from your desk to enjoy something – and even try to get outside for some fresh air, too. You’ll find there’s a positive knock-on effect on your afternoon, too. Nearly 90% of US employees claim that taking a lunch break helps them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work.
4. Wind down every day
When you work from home it can be hard to ever truly feel ‘finished’ for the day, in the same way you might if you were putting on your coat and leaving the office at 5pm. To help you get into the right mental head space, it can help to develop a wind-down routine at the end of each day. Decide on a regular time that you’ll shut your inbox. Check your calendar for tomorrow’s meetings and write a to-do list of things to tackle. Then power down and switch off your laptop – don’t just shut the lid – and turn off all your other electronics. If you can leave the room you’ve been working in until the next day, even better.
5. Take your annual leave
When you work at home, it’s tempting to log-on to check your emails while you’re meant to be on annual leave. But resist that urge. Plenty of research shows the benefits of vacations on employee productivity. Leave a comprehensive handover for your colleagues and then switch off. Unplug your phone and hide your laptop if that helps. Don’t answer emails, don’t ‘check-in’ and don’t even think about sitting down at your work desk. If the thought of taking a week off fills you with dread, consider taking shorter breaks more often – an afternoon every week or a full day here and there – to recharge your batteries.