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With the growing threat of a potential lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces are preparing to have their workforce work remotely. Research has shown that working from home has advantages, particularly in worker productivity. However, there are also some barriers, such as reduced creativity, loneliness and difficulties maintaining a work-life balance. This blog will focus on how to achieve a good work-life balance when you are in a position where you need to work from home.

Finding a balance between working and day to day life is primarily about how you manage your time. The following tips will help you enhance your time-management and communication skills to make the most out of your day.

Plan your activities properly – Set times when you will be working. You can keep the same working hours you would have in an office environment to maintain a sense of normality. Alternatively, you may find that being flexible and breaking down your time between your work responsibilities and other tasks works better for you. Communicating your working hours to your colleagues will help coordinate your working hours and still collaborate effectively. Start a goal setting process, identifying long and short term goals and stick to the deadlines that you set yourself. You will find you will have more peace of mind and be able to give yourself more time and attention for other daily activities.

Work in a space that’s distinct from the rest of your home – Set an “office space” which you can solely dedicate to your work. Keep this space neat and clutter-free to avoid distractions. Make this known to anyone you live with so they know to limit disturbing you while you work. If you have children, you may wish to explain to them that when you are sitting at this particular desk, it means you are working and they should only approach you if necessary. Teaching family members to respect your time and space will allow you to set healthy boundaries even in a small, confined space.

Start your day strong – Set a morning routine that you can stick to. You may want to change out of your sweatpants, make a cup of coffee/tea and have breakfast, check your emails, prioritise your activities, set your to-do list and get to work.

Don’t cancel or move any of your meetings – When working from home can challenge your productivity. You should therefore stick to a similar work structure as you would in an office environment, including sticking to the same meetings you would have with colleagues using video-conferencing tools. This will allow you to stick to a routine and help you maintain healthy targets for the completion of your work.

Develop a habit of documentation – Keep good documentation of your work progress as well as communication between colleagues so that this can be communicated to the rest of the team effectively.

Make time for breaks – Disconnecting from work can help increase your productivity. Do not overwhelm yourself, make sure you take time to disconnect. You can use this time to do personal tasks that you enjoy, such as cooking, exercising or reading a book.

Keep communication with your colleagues alive – Use communication tools to maintain a relationship with your colleagues. Have a virtual coffee break and/or purely social video conferences with colleagues can help you alleviate loneliness and maintain a sense of working within a team.

Take care of your health – Make sure that you still exercise and get mental breaks appropriately. This can be challenging when you do not need to go to the canteen for a cup of coffee or need to walk between different offices. Set time for short exercises, stretching breaks and plan healthy, nutritious meals.

Plan after-work activities – Working from home can make it hard to break up work and personal time. To avoid the feeling like you are always “at work”, plan activities that you can do after you finish your work duties, something to look forward to.

These tips highlight the importance of maintaining a sense of discipline and structure within your day. By building habits that support strong time management and communication skills, you will be able to strike a balance between the tasks related to your personal and work life. Such habits might be a challenge to adopt at first. However, with persistence, you can make working remotely work for you!

Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.

Resources:

Derek Thomson, The Coronavirus is creating a huge, stressful experiment in working from home, The Atlantic, theatlantic.com

Kevin Roose, Sorry, but working from home is overrated, The Ney York Times, nytimes.com

Michael Gilmore, 5 ways to improve work-life balance when you work at home, Productivityist, productivityist.com

Tracey Crosbie & Jeanne Moore, Work-life balance and working from home. Social Policy and Society 3(3):223-233