COVID 19 has blurred the lines between work and home. Many people are discovering there are positives and negatives to the new world of working from home. How people are using this newfound time varies from exercising more but conversely working longer hours. Working longer does not mean you are more efficient and this can affect your mental and physical health. The approach to finding the balance is not one size fits all. But, at the end of the day, being able to 'switch off' and have some you time is especially important in the world we currently live in.
The extra time gained with no commute
No work commute is a big positive for many people working from home, especially during Covid-19. For some people in "normal times", this commute is 2+ hours each way to work and that time adds up each week.
Coronavirus has literally given people time and flexibility to work from home and allow them to have extra hours back in the day. This allows extra time spent on exercise, reconnecting with family and rediscovering interests.
But on the flip side, some people are putting the extra time they have gained back into work – working longer hours than if they were in the office. I've heard of stories where people are getting out of bed, turning on the laptop straight away and commencing work for the day. This isn't healthy or sustainable both for your physical and mental health.
Working from home guilt
“Work from home guilt” is real. You put extra pressure on yourself by letting yourself believe that you need to be more productive working from home than if you were in the office. This stems from the perception that working from home means you are watching Netflix, so as a result, you feel that you need to be more responsive. A UK survey pre-Covid-19 found that almost half (46%) of employees feel the need to combat the perception that working from home is less productive than working in the office. As an outcome, you feel guilty running an errand on what would be your lunch break, something you would have done if you were in the office.
To help overcome this, you need to change your mindset. Tell yourself it is important to take breaks and ‘if you would do it at work, then it is ok to do at home’. Give yourself permission to have breaks to look after your own mental and physical health and you will be better for this at the end of the day.
Working From Home productivity and outputs over hours
Working the longest hours doesn’t mean you are the most productive or the most efficient worker. Henry Ford invented the nine to five, eight-hour workday in the 1920s. It was around the mentality of eight hours for work, eight hours for leisure, and eight hours for sleep. This mindset is very last century, the way we work and where has significantly changed. What worked 100 years ago, does not mean this approach would and should work today for all employees.
A Stanford University study debunks the myth that working longer doesn’t mean you are more productive. They noticed a sharp decline in the productivity of people working more than 50 hours a week and working more than 55 hours an employee's productivity falls dramatically where the output is limited. We should be starting to have conversations about outcomes employees have rather than the hours they put in. The outcomes of 8 hours working from home vs being in the office is vastly different. In a recent Citrix survey, 70% of respondents said they are more productive working from home than when they are in the office. There is so much wasted time at work when you start to reflect on your workday. We don't realize how many distractions we have from colleagues until they aren’t there. If you're homeschooling, having kids could be likened to a similar distraction as your work colleagues! The conversation should be around outputs and productivity not the hours spent at the computer doing a task. This supports the working from home argument post-covid that some employees will no doubt have with their employer.
"Switching off" at the end of the day
Just like a seesaw, we all need to find an even balance between our blurred lines of work and family life and it will go up and down. Each day will be different.
Here are 10 tips to help you “switch off” to help balance work and family/life when working from home:
Develop a routine for the day and week and make it visible. Break the routine down further if this works for you.
Create boundaries between home and work time – finish work at the time you usually would have when you were in the office
Plan out your tasks/goals for the day – when looking at your “to do” list, create a daily, or even a weekly checklist and use this to guide you on what to do. Set yourself times to achieve these tasks if this is something that works for you, or you could use the Pomodoro technique of 25 minutes per task.
Turn off outlook notifications – this helps you stay focused on the task you are doing and not get distracted by that email that has just come it. I find this and helps my focus and answer emails all in one go when I’m between tasks or meetings.
Scheduling time for lunch – you need to make sure you eat & this helps you have a break
Exercise during a call - Go for a walk during a call it's a great opportunity to be active
Changing your mindset by changing your clothes – One thing that I've also found really helpful is changing out of my clothes from my work clothes (aka jeans & jumper) and into some casual clothes (tracksuit pants) at the end of the day to help shift my mindset from work to family life. I used to do this when I was coming home from work, and it's also important to do so now.
If you are working in your study – turn your computer off at the end of the day and shut the door to help you transition between work and home.
If you are working on the dining table (like I am a couple of days a week) – pack away the computer and your work materials at the end of the day. Again, to help with closure for the end of the day.
Keep your “normal” work/office hours at home – a good way to help maintain routine