Why Remote WorkWith COVID-19 came many changes around how we work and live. Our health and well-being have come into the spotlight as stay-at-home orders were passed nationwide in an effort to thwart the spread of coronavirus; each state creating their own guidelines and essentially forcing non-essential businesses to shut down—compelling managers and employees to start working from home.
For many, this was a major change at both employer and employee level. Managers had to quickly figure out how to lead their teams remotely rather than in person, and everyone had to hastily learn how to adjust to a different way of working—remote work became the new normal throughout the world.
Before COVID-19, the idea of remote work was already growing. Some of the newer companies already had a work-from-home model they were using with success, such as OnceHub, Zapier, and Buffer. For these companies, they didn’t have to worry about shifting their employees to remote work when the coronavirus hit.
However, many companies were not as open to remote work prior to the pandemic over worries that employees would lose the ability to collaborate face-to-face, and there would be little value to the company culture if people weren’t working at the office. But it’s safe to say, with COVID-19, the way we work is never going to be the same again.
Interestingly, according to Vox, 34% of employees working remotely will not go back to the office anytime soon, and 74% of companies already plan to allow some of their employees to work remote permanently.
We know that many companies are likely going to keep the option for remote work, and many employees want to remain working from home. In fact, Facebook also recently announced they will allow their workers to continue working from home for the remainder of the year, and perhaps even permanently. This is why it is essential that we learn how to balance both our work and personal lives There are many benefits to remote work, such as not having to deal with traffic going to and from work, a healthier lifestyle, much more flexibility, and the ability to stay close to family, so it’s completely understandable why so many of us want to keep this momentum going past the pandemic.
Studies show that people are more productive when working from home over working at the office because of other distractions, such as chatty co-workers, and having longer commutes to and from work (who wants to sit in traffic for two hours each way!). However, for many, it’s detrimental to work-life balance, which is why it’s important to look at this balance now, so we don’t go stir crazy in the future. I’m going to share five tips you can start using now to help create a work-life balance that will keep you healthy, safe and sane.
5 Life-Changing Tips For a Healthy, Safe and Sane Work-Life Balance
Make your calendar your best friend and start setting a schedule you can stick to.
If you’re using Google Calendar, or Outlook, you can set your start and end time for work—as well as schedule your calls, emails, meetings, and tasks all on your calendar.
The calendar helps you to stay productive, and you’ll find a balance between work time and when it’s time to stop and shut that computer down at 5:00pm (or whatever time your work ends). If you find yourself working longer hours then you usually would at your actual office, then you should reevaluate your hours and modify them to fit your day. It’s okay to be flexible with your hours if you need it. Talk to your manager and find out if you can modify your work hours to fit your calendar and your lifestyle.
Create a space where you can work remotely at home and avoid distractions.
Having a set space helps avoid unnecessary interruptions which can lead to low productivity. It also helps create a mental and physical barrier, which allows you to set clear work and non-work areas in your home.
A quick tip: Silence your cell phone. Personal calls and text messages can be extremely distracting (and time-consuming). Turn off your TV – if you have family (spouse and kids) at home, let them know you’re at work and create boundaries so they know not to disturb you while you’re at work. At home, I have a corner of my bedroom that I converted into my office space next to a lovely window and a beautiful desk I work on. I make sure my door is closed so I don’t get distracted by the TV or my family members.
Get into the habit of taking breaks throughout your work day.
Our typical work days are from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday (typical, but work hours and days vary depending on the company and your arranged schedule). I’ve talked to a number of my friends and co-workers who have told me they forget to take breaks because they get so absorbed with emails, talking to clients, and taking care of tasks while working from home. I get it; productivity is the name of the game. However, doing this doesn’t create the balance you need. You also won’t know when you’re overworking and when you need to stop after your eight hours are over. Just as you’re legally supposed to take at least two 10- to 15-minute breaks, and a 30-minute lunch at the office, you need to continue this momentum at home. What works for me is to set alarms on my iPhone to get up and stretch for five minutes every hour, as well as drink water, and breathe before getting back to work again. Also set an alarm for a lunch break so you don’t skip it, even if you don’t eat during that time.
A quick tip: Use your calendar to set work start/end times, and break times in between. Shut down your computer during lunch, and send all calls to voicemail. If you use Slack or other methods of communicating with your co-workers in real-time, set your status to Away.
Communicate consistently with your managers and co-workers, and continue building enriching relationships.
Working from home can be lonely, especially for extroverts who get the majority of their energy by being around people. Managers should consider utilizing video conferencing software, such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Dialpad, or Cisco WebEx to communicate with their employees and set online video meetings. Employers should ideally ensure their employees have access to these video conferencing apps, and other real-time messaging applications, such as Slack, where people can create virtual hubs or workspaces to communicate with their team members, and other coworkers, either one-on-one or as a team.
Slack is our main communication tool during the day when we need to chat and stay in touch with one another at BQE. There’s a sense of normality when sharing photos of our dogs and cats, kids, and overall, enjoying conversations on the main channel, as well as talking one on one via chat messages. As well as socializing, managers and employees can chat with each other on Slack about anything urgent, and it saves time over sending emails.
A quick tip: Using Slack and other messaging/video conferencing software can be distracting if you find yourself on it all the time. When you’re not using these apps, shut off the notifications and set times when you can reach out to your fellow co-workers to check in on them throughout the work day.
Change things up by focusing on things you’re passionate about outside of work.
To truly have a work-life balance, it’s essential that we do other things after work. Here are some activities (in-person or online) you may find enjoyable during your off-work hours:
- Join a Toastmasters club and meet people virtually (or face-to-face once things open back up again);
- Find a networking group through your favorite hobby or pastime, such as painting, writing, or dancing;
- Join a virtual exercise class via an online app;
- If you live by a park or the beach, take advantage of what’s currently open and walk, jog, or spend time with family or friends (while practicing social distancing);
- Take up gardening in your backyard or a balcony;
- Do you love to read? Curl up on the sofa with a good book.
COVID-19 has impacted the way we work and the way we live. Working remotely has become the new normal amid the pandemic but it has given employers and their employees the ability to be more productive, while being flexible. Without having to worry about a commute (other than the 30 seconds it takes to walk the 20 feet to your desk), or talking to chatty co-workers at the office, remote work has its benefits.
Having a work-life balance is essential and will become increasingly important as more companies start shifting to a partial or permanent work-from-home model. The five tips I shared will help you stay healthy, safe, and sane as you continue to work remotely. Start using the tips now, and remember, a healthy, well-balanced life will keep you productive, and happier at work as well.