More and more companies are considering hybrid models for their future workplace policies. With remote work all but permanently cemented into the fabric of modern corporate culture, employees must establish practices and environments that are conducive to an effective and fulfilling workday, as well as a healthy and balanced home life. Once we are past this crisis, the workforce won’t return to what it once was. We need to be prepared to make working from home a healthy and productive long-term solution. Here are some ways to maximize your working hours, while also maintaining your well-being in a combined living and working space.
Without your commute, you’ve gained precious time. A 2019 study found that on average, Americans spent 54 minutes per day in total traveling to and from work. It’s obviously great to have that time back, but commuting does have a big benefit of separating your work life and home life. You’ve lost a built-in transition period in the mornings and evenings during which you can prepare yourself for your day and unwind your thoughts from work before arriving at home. It’s important to establish new methods of transitioning in and out of work. If you have a role where you haven’t had a set work time (such as being an entrepreneur or working for a company with flexible hours), you can pick a time to be on and off the clock. You can even have variations of start and end times throughout the week, as long as you are intentional each day about when you want to start and end your work time. You may even want to set alarms on your phone as a reminder of when your day starts and when it ends.
Try creating rituals at the beginning and end of your work day to establish clear transitions, otherwise it may be unclear when you are in work mode versus personal time.
Before starting work make a point to not check work emails or slack until you are “at work” for the day. You can find routines that are customized to your interests to help as an indicator and transition into your work day. That may be a short walk or exercise routine, making breakfast without work distractions, checking the stock market or news, engaging in a short meditation or anything else that you enjoy doing in the mornings. Once it is time to start work, create specific indicators that it is now time to transition — such as stretching in your chair before opening your computer, taking a deep breath or lighting a candle. None of these things need to take a lot of time, but will make a world of a difference in your disposition.
Transitioning out of work is equally important. Microsoft Teams (an application you can use) now features the option to schedule “virtual commutes,” wherein, for example, employees are reminded that the end of their workday is approaching, and that some tasks on their to-do list should be moved to tomorrow. You can also use other methods to wrap up your current work day and begin planning for the next day. This can help wind down your day. A lot of the same suggestions given above can also be applied to create indicators that your day is over.
Sustaining Human Connection
Collaborating with your colleagues can be beneficial for your work and also your well-being. Working in a silo can help with getting tasks completed, but you may also run the risk of missing a perspective or direction you haven’t thought about.
Have regular coffee meetings, even as brief as 15 minutes, with different colleagues to check in with them to see what they have been working on, want to work on or in general how they are doing. You can also meet with individuals from different departments to expand your network and knowledge of what other arms of the company are working on.
Take the lead on establishing interest groups, scheduling company social or enrichment events. Human connection is incredibly important during this time and lots of people are looking for opportunities to connect outside of work conversations.
Make your office space one that is conducive to uninterrupted work as much as possible. Even if you don’t have the means or space to set up a separate room, creating a designated work space is possible. Purchasing a room divider screen is a good option to create a separate working environment if you don’t have an extra room and it can also act as a nice background for your video meetings.
When working from home it can be challenging to create a structure for your workday schedule. One suggestion is to get clear on what absolutely has to be completed during the day for both your work and your personal life. Start your day off by creating two lists side by side. One is your list of absolutely crucial work tasks that must be completed that day. The other is a list of personal tasks that you’d like to complete that day and block off time on your calendar to work on these specific tasks.
In any climate, our culture makes it challenging to achieve a balanced and happy home-life, as well as a fulfilling work experience. With a pandemic turning the world upside down, those challenges are magnified. We know that remote work isn’t going away any time soon, and it may be the wave of the future. There are some great things about that and some frustrating things, but ultimately the best way forward is to establish proper boundaries between work and home, connect with colleagues to benefit from human interaction, and create a workspace that inspires and supports your creativity. With these tools the benefits of remote work will shine even more brightly, and our lives will be richer for it.