Work-life balance is how workers distribute their time to stay productive at work and take care of their personal obligations. A good work-life balance ensures that you allocate just enough time to work on projects without overworking yourself and also focus on your private life, like taking care of family, pets, and friends and attending social events.
But let’s face it, for a working parent, it is not always easy to juggle the daily demands of commutes and family care or avoid the scary thought of receiving a phone call about your kid’s health knowing that you’re miles away. That’s why working at home is appealing to many parents.
Having said that, working where you live and living where you work can be even tougher, especially when it comes to finding a balance between commitment to work and taking care of the family. Without a healthy work-life balance, a remote-working parent can be overwhelmed by work, which could lead to stress and burnout.
Why Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance Is Important
So, does working remotely influence family life? While it’s undeniable that working at home as a parent can have many benefits, it can also be very challenging. For instance, you may be on a very important work call when your kids come stumbling in, crying for your attention. There’s also the threat of overtime abuse since the line between office and personal life has been blurred. Also, the submission of an important project may be due in a few hours when suddenly your area is hit by a power outage.
Despite these challenges, remote work should still be considered as work. This calls for discipline, professionalism, commitment, and better time management since the productivity of a remote worker can be negatively impacted when there is a poor work-life balance.
Studies show that employees cite a better work-life balance as the topmost reason they work from home. Those who have a good work-life balance are happier and less stressed. In turn, happy workers are more motivated and productive.
In a recent study by GoToMeeting, 24 % of the respondents said that remote work had influenced their major life decisions, such as going back to school or making a major purchase. Increased savings were also cited as another plus for working remotely.
Another study shows that most tech workers cannot start a family due to the high costs of living. To avoid long commutes, they prefer to stay close to their places of work, which results in the inflated living costs forcing them to postpone starting a family.
With telecommuting, parents can take care of their families more easily and afford better housing in the location of their choice. Luckily, some companies and organizations are formulating policies to help remote working parents have a healthy work-life balance.
How to Keep a Healthy Work-Life Balance While Working at Home
Ways to maintain a successful work-life balance while working from home vary from person to person, depending on aspects like the environment, marital status, number of kids, and priorities in life. That said, no matter your current situation, these tips will help you stay productive while enjoying the best work-life balance that remote work can offer.
1# Set Clear Priorities
With the current state of affairs, you can find yourself juggling several roles while still trying to live your dream life. You may have set specific goals for your relationship or life in general but may find yourself postponing them due to having too many responsibilities on your plate.
Start by getting rid of time wasters like people or activities that don’t add value to your well-being. Learn to say no to people so that you can have time for yourself. Yes, we all agree that working from home is indeed flexible, but that doesn’t mean that you have all the time in the world to pick up your friend from the airport or to allow your friends to barge in whenever they like.
Such things take your time and energy, and if you don’t set priorities, you may never accomplish your goals. Decide when one event or activity needs to take priority over another to be able to do what you’ve always been planning.
2# Separate Your ‘Office’ from Your Home
As much as working in pajamas from the comfort of your bed or couch is appealing, it might be detrimental to your health and productivity. Your mind might have a difficult time shifting from sleep mode to work mode when you work from the bed.
Therefore, find a specific place for your private ‘office’ or desk where you’ll have your work equipment. You may want to set up your workspace where there is natural light, like near a window, or place flowers on your desk. If you find it hard to work in a noisy environment, find somewhere quiet where you can fully concentrate on your work. When you are there, your mind will immediately know that working hours have started.
Having a dedicated workspace is a way of telling family members or friends that you’re not to be disturbed until you step out for a break. It also makes it easy to ‘exit’ the ‘office’ and leave all work-related devices and files on your desk when your workday comes to an end, just as you would when working in the traditional office.
3# Create and Stick to a Routine
If you are new to remote work, one question that might have crossed your mind is, “Does remote work affect private life?” It can be very tempting to sleep or eat whenever you want when working from home. While you can do all that, this can negatively affect your work-life balance. Think of it as going to an office. You normally perform personal tasks, like taking a shower or eating breakfast, before heading out.
Applying the same routine when working remotely can have positive effects on both your work and private life. You’ll discover that you save plenty of time that you can use to accomplish other tasks.
One of the most important aspects of creating a routine is time management. Knowing that you have a specific set of hours to work helps you to block out other things so that you can fully focus on work. Whether you want to emulate the 9-5 office hours or wake up early to work on projects so that you can have the rest of the afternoon off, do your best to stick to your routine.
A more effective approach would be to use a time tracking app like Traqq to manage your time. With alerts and reminders, you can easily check how long you have been working on specific projects and use that record to gauge the level of your productivity.
Additionally, you can set alerts to notify you whenever it is time to take a break so that you don’t overwork. This is a useful tool that allows you to focus on the tasks at hand for a specific set of hours. The program also tracks all the hours worked, making it easy to manage your payments.
4# Wear the Right Clothing
We know how tempting it can be to spend all day working in your PJs from your couch or garden. The thing is, to stay productive while working at home, you need to get into the work mindset. That’s why wearing the right clothing is highly advisable.
When you treat your home office like the traditional office, you are likely to become more creative and productive. Furthermore, laziness has a way of creeping in when you stay in your pajamas all day, especially when working from where you normally relax – like the bed or couch.
5# Know When to Clock Out
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is not knowing when to shut the ‘office door’. Creating a routine is not enough if you don’t have self-discipline. Since you work where you sleep, you will always be tempted to check your emails or Skype groups.
If your home office has a door, make it a routine to lock it when your working hours are over. If you work in a corner of the house, use a time tracking app to notify you when your workday ends so that you can shut everything down.
6# Clear Your Head Periodically
It’s crucial to take breaks between your projects to maintain focus. Your mind can stay active for only a couple of hours before it starts to lose concentration. When creating your routine, set specific times when you’ll be taking breaks throughout the day to clear your head.
Different things work for different people. While some may take a short walk to cool down their minds, others find exercising or taking coffee to be relaxing. Do what makes you feel relaxed so that you can get back to work with a fresh mind.
7# Find Time for Fun
We understand work is important, but you must make time for fun with family and friends. Even if you don’t have family around or none of your friends live close by, try finding humor and joy in things around you.
Go out for a drink or two, join community groups, or sign up for a gym membership. You’ll soon meet awesome people with whom you can connect and create strong friendships. Taking care of your mental and physical health is crucial for productivity.
You can also use this time to take your spouse out for dinner, a dance, or whatever makes both of you happy. Even when working from home, it’s easy for two people to drift apart. That’s why it is important to create time for each other.
8# Communicate Often
Breaking away from the traditional office setting creates a disconnect from your colleagues, and you can start feeling lonely or isolated. That’s why it is important to keep in touch with your team members. With tools like Slack and Skype, remote workers can have regular conversations to stay connected.
Isolation can have negative effects on both your mental and physical health. So, knowing that you have friends to talk to when you feel down or lonely can make you feel alive again. These are people you can share your thoughts, pain, experiences, joy, and laughter with.
Some companies are now organizing birthday celebrations or baby showers virtually as a way of keeping team members connected. Others organize for remote workers to come into the office at least once a quarter or a year for company events to encourage social interactions.
9# Take Care of Your Health
Your health should always come first when working from home. Staring at a computer all day long is no fun, plus it has negative effects on your health. This is why it is important to exercise regularly and eat well-balanced meals.
Avoid too much junk food and instead opt for less sugar, lots of veggies and fruits, and fewer chemicals.
10# Avoid Multitasking
You can be tempted to do dishes or laundry while you are working to reduce the workload. However, rather than finishing the chores quickly, you’ll find that you still have pending work at the end of the day.
Multitasking is not helpful. Your work is especially likely to suffer when you leave it halfway through to attend to other things. Try sticking to one task at a time, and you’ll be surprised at how effective you can be.
Learning how to manage work at home and family life is no breeze, but with practice and better planning, you can establish a good work-life balance. While you can set clear boundaries between work and private life while working from home, it can only work if you stick to your routines and use the right time management tools.