How to work from home and achieve a work/life balance
You can still achieve a work/life balance even when you are at home every day
Our remote worker Emma Frazer shares her tips on how to achieve a work/life balance, even though you have no work to go to.
It might feel like the days of being able to achieve a work/life balance are long gone. Gone with being able to go to work, go outside or have a social life, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Nor does working from home mean that you have to make it as uncomfortable or dreary as possible. I haven’t worked in an office for 4 years, and that experience is definitely paying off now. So let me help you to achieve a work/life balance with these 9 tips:
9 tips to achieve a work/life balance
1. Get out of bed in the morning.
Let’s start at the beginning of the day. Getting out of bed in the morning can feel like a mammoth task, with no real reason to do it. But it’s got to be done. To achieve a work/life balance you need to treat the working days as different to the weekends. So set yourself a morning wake-up time and stick to it.
Having said that, working from home comes with its perks. If you no longer have a 45 minute commute, why wake up at the same time as before?
You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn just to try to feel like your day still has a purpose. Work out how long it takes you to get ready (always including a shower… always!), and be ready at your desk at the start of the working day.
Setting a wake-up time for the week days will make having a lie in at the weekends something to look forward to.
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2. It’s all about timings.
Keep your working hours structured, so that you can have distinct leisure time. Start work at the same time each day and schedule breaks and meal times.
More important than any of these, make sure you have a time that you stop work. Don’t let the working day drag on into the evening. By having a set time when you finish, you will be more focused and achieve the same results.
Once you’ve finished work, don’t check your emails or do any tasks that you would have left at the office. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can work whenever. Keep to those working hours and then you can properly switch off and enjoy your down time.
3. Dress to impress?
When you get up in the mornings, it is important to start the day fresh. Get out of bed, have a shower, and put some clothes on that you haven’t just been sleeping in.
Having said that, one of the benefits of working from home is that you can wear whatever you want. Maybe you want to dress like you are in the office. Or maybe you want to have a different set of pyjamas or comfy trackies that you work in.
Dressing up in bright colours or different styles can add some fun to an otherwise dreary day. You don’t need to achieve a work/life balance by making your work time as dull as possible. Keep it structured, but make it enjoyable. It’s not every day that you get to go to work in your favourite stripy jumper, new holiday shorts, furry socks and a headband.
Just make sure that you put on clothes that mark the start of the day.
4. Creating an office.
It’s important to mark out a place where you work. You need to be able to focus and make it separate from your down time.
As we are (almost) all working from home these days, a bigger issue might be making sure that other people you live with don’t disturb you. If you have children it is no doubt easier to have a visual, office-like space where they can’t disturb you unless it’s absolutely necessary.
However, for those without children, the do-not-disturb sign can be more subtle. In my flat there are fewer spaces to retreat to so we use different signs. Having the door shut or headphones on are enough to indicate that we are at work.
Again you don’t have to work somewhere uncomfortable to feel like you are at work. Doing the work itself is usually enough to indicate to my brain that it’s not play-time. And I often find I get more work done in the hammock where I’m happy, than if I sit uncomfortably at the desk with the snacks in sight.
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5. Always just an email away?
Technology is great, there’s no doubt about it. Lock-down without the internet would be a much lonelier time with far less entertainment and news. However, as most people have found at some point, we are now always contactable.
But being able to access our emails at any point definitely does not mean we should.
The best rule I have for this is to not check my emails unless I am going to do something about it at that moment. Checking your emails while you are watching a film, about to exercise, or just before bed is not a good plan. It is just going to make you think about work when you should be relaxing.
Going back to point 2, it is important to have clear working hours. That means when you are out of those hours you have no reason to check in or think about work, especially at weekends.
6. Set yourself manageable goals.
Time can feel endless with nothing to break it up or mark a change in the days. Setting yourself clear, achievable goals will help you to feel like you are progressing.
In the working day these should include daily tasks that need to be achieved, as well as overarching projects that need to be completed by certain points.
But goal setting doesn’t need to be restricted to the office. Now is the time to write down the ultimate to-do list of everything you’ve meant to do but kept putting off. Set times when you want to achieve these tasks, but make sure they are out of office hours.
Don’t fall into the trap of doing chores and personal admin. during your office hours. It will only mean that you’ll have to work later or won’t get your work done. It’s important that you keep the two worlds separate.
7. Carrot or stick?
We are living through difficult times that are putting a strain on everyone, so don’t punish yourself if you can’t keep up the way you used to. Instead, set yourself small rewards for small achievements.
You are no longer getting that same office environment, so if you finish a task and would normally chat to someone, take that moment to get in contact with someone. Make sure you schedule breaks for yourself too. It is unreasonable to expect your mind to concentrate non-stop with no stimulation or benefits.
8. Take control of what you can.
Normally if you have a bad day at work, you can leave the office. Obviously that is not the case now, but there are still ways of achieving this feeling.
Do something to mark the end of the day. If you can, take this time to go for a walk or do some exercise. That will help you to clear your head of work. Make sure you finish work with a long time before bed too, so that you can relax and de-stress.
But most importantly, take the steps you can to avoid having a bad day at work. You are in control of so many factors right now- from what you wear, to when you take breaks, to where you work. Use these decisions to create a working day that doesn’t feel so bad.
9. Find joy
We are currently in a global crisis, with devastating effects both personally and financially. However, as the Chinese proverb says-
“Out of crisis comes opportunity.”
This is the time to achieve all those tasks and ideas that have languished at the bottom of To-Do lists for years. It is the chance to take up new hobbies, try new haircuts, and learn new recipes. Contact old friends, alter old clothes, and play old games (I even have a friend who is currently stitching a tapestry).
Get fit and stay healthy with online exercise programmes. They can feel like you are part of a community and really achieving progress. If you do it at the end of each working day it can be a great way to mark the difference between work and leisure.
Dress how you feel, sing loudly and badly, and dance like no one is watching. You can even learn dance routines online. No one can see you. So spend your down time doing what makes you happy.
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