What started as a supposedly short-term situation has morphed into a long-term lifestyle. And while the ten-second commute and perpetual pajama pants are big perks, working from home comes with challenges that aren’t easy to overcome. We simply weren’t prepared for the long haul, throwing our precarious work-life balance way off. If your home is your office and your office is your home, here’s how to stay perfectly balanced.
Going from a bustling office to being home alone is quite a change. Peace and quiet is great for getting work done, but there’s a reason why solitary confinement is a prison punishment. We’re social creatures, and when loneliness sets in, mental health suffers. Loneliness was a work from home problem long before the pandemic and now it’s become a whole lot worse. If you’re feeling alone, know you’re not the only one. Here’s how to stay social, without the water cooler:
Go double remote. One day a week, work from somewhere else. Coffee shops, parks, and libraries are great places to get work done. And with more people in your midst, you won’t feel so isolated.
Reinvent the water cooler. You are allowed to talk to coworkers about things not related to work. Awful movie reviews? Wild weekend stories? Restaurant recommendations? Build a sense of community and create connections simply by chatting.
Turn the camera on. Face-to-face interactions, physical reactions, emotions, and laughter are what makes us social creatures. It’s easy to lose sight of this when working from home.
Eat out. Break out of solitary confinement every now and then and eat something better than prison food. The change of scenery helps too.
There’s this idea that working from home means we’re in our element, so obviously we can get our best work done. But that’s not always the case. From the allure of social media to cats strolling on the keyboard, to microwaves scrambling the Wi-Fi, our homes are not always set up for success. When life gets in the way of work, productivity suffers. Here’s the remedy:
Set boundaries. When you share living spaces, everyone needs to know when you need complete, uninterrupted silence. The cat may not accommodate you, though.
Designate a specific workspace. A distraction-free area—be it a full room or a small corner of one—is key for productivity. And use this space only for work!
Remove distractions. This includes all phones and devices with notifications and the TV. Don’t let distractions take over just because your hours are flexible. Use airplane mode if you need to.
Take breaks. Regular breaks make distractions less temping. Get up, stretch your body, and go for a walk to get back in the zone.
Conquer communication complications
With the shift to working from home, we lost the ability to ask quick questions face to face. Technology was supposed to make the distance doable, but technical difficulties make even the most basic communication agonizing. It’s fixable, here’s how:
Don’t over communicate. Not everything needs to be a long meeting. Aim for quick conversations with less explaining, less micromanaging, and less wasted time.
Use technology wisely. Notice your team getting bogged down by the tech? Constantly informing people they’re on mute? Then it’s time for new tools. Replace email with messaging, whiteboards with digital kanban boards, and settle on one video conferencing tool. And of course, move your documents to Sync for easy collaboration from anywhere.
Manage miscommunication. When you’re not speaking face-to-face it’s easy to get caught in a game of broken telephone. So be sure to ask questions, take meeting notes, and be open about any points of confusion to keep the lines clear.
Build trust. The best communication happens when everyone feels connected. Reply to messages the same day, ensure everyone knows who to go to when they have questions, and encourage time for fun to unify the team.
Make room for work and play
When your home is your office and your office is your home, it’s hard to keep a balance. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, and with work from home, the all work part tends to take over. Even with Right to Disconnect Laws taking effect, the ever-present work makes it hard to find time to play. How do you keep it all balanced so you don’t burnout like Jack? Here’s how:
Fully disconnect. When work time is done, shut down the laptop, turn off the computer, stop checking email, and log out of everything related to work. Mail notifications should not be waking you up at night.
Enjoy life. There’s more to life than work. Get your balance back by focusing on family, friends, hobbies, nature, sports, games, extracurricular activities, and rest.
Take vacations. Go far, far away from home with family or friends. And when on vacation, stay on vacation. Set your workplace status to vacation mode so you’re left alone.
Take care of yourself. Get the proper amount of sleep, stick to a schedule, and don’t show up to work in your pajamas (even if your office is your bedroom). Take time for lunch and fuel your body well.
Yes, working from home is now a long-term lifestyle. This is our new norm. Which means it’s time to ditch the perpetual pajama pants and re-route the ten-second commute. By staying social, overcoming distractions, conquering communication complications, and making room for work and play, you’ll wobble less and get more done on both sides of the balance beam. Work from home the right way to stay steady and in sync.