For many people, the work experience has significantly changed over the past year. Work-from-home arrangements are becoming more standard, and more people are teleworking more regularly. Many organizations are finding that the resulting productivity is high, despite the distance and empty cubicles.
So, what does work-life balance look like in a work-from-home world?
- The traditional 9-to-5 day may appear unnecessarily structured, as mid-day local appointments are easier to arrange with less disruption.
- Commuting time is down, providing more hours in the day for both work and life.
- The work computer is more easily in reach, which may lead to more email checks and work engagement off-hours.
- With less geographic separation, there may be more of a blurring between work and personal lives, as kids and pets enter the videoconferencing frame. Many of our work colleagues are learning more about our life at home.
- The work-life pendulum may experience more, but less dramatic, swings between the different parts of our lives.
These changes may be seen as positive or negative depending on your perspective. For managers with high needs for control and visibility, it can feel challenging to manage from afar. For managers and employees who are deeply engaged in their work, it may make it harder to walk away— both psychologically and physically. And for employees who struggle to focus, the distractions can be hard to manage.
Here are some tips for managing yourself and others in this context:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! Communicate schedules, expectations, accomplishments, and processes to avoid misunderstandings and conflict.
- Establish some type of physical separation— even if it is just symbolic. If you have a home office, shut the door. If you are working from your dining room table or a bedroom desk, put materials away at the end of the day and shut the lid of the computer when you are taking a break.
- Keep a range of connections, with work colleagues, family and friends. Balancing work and life means connecting with people from each of those worlds on a regular basis.
- Stay self-aware of how you are dividing your time between work and life and recognize that shifts will occur. Some days, work will need your undivided focus for more hours than expected. Other days may have more breaks— find balance over time, and actively communicate with those around you.
Many people are finding new ways of living their lives in these unique times— with opportunities to experiment with new approaches that reshape work-life balance in a fair and healthy way.