Work life balance when you work from home

On March 11, 2020 the world forever changed. For many, working from home no longer was a choice but a necessity. Now, one year later many of us still have to contend with striking a work life balance when your home is also your office. Well, the good news is that with all American adults projected to be eligible for a vaccination no later than May 1st, working from home will become a choice yet again. So for those looking to survive the next few months until they can return to the office or those that will continue working remotely as normalcy returns, let’s dive into the ups and downs of working from home.

The Perks

According to a February 2021 Gallup poll nearly a quarter (23%)  of all U.S. workers want remote working to be a long term option. That is a lot of people enjoying the upsides of working from home, some of which include:

  • No commute!
  • According to an analysis by The Texas A&M Transportation Institute in 2017 “The average auto commuter spent 54 hours in congestion and wasted 21 gallons of fuel due to congestion at a cost of $1,080 in wasted time and fuel.” That is a lot of time and money saved. This opens up more opportunities to relax, be with the family, and get ahead at work or even that morning workout you’ve been trying to find time for.
  • Not having a commute can also have mental health benefits. No more waking up at 6:00amjust to sit in a traffic jam so frustrating that not even the most calming episode of Brene Brown’s podcast can help. 
  • You have more control over how you spend your day. Working from home allows you to take that quick break you need without judgement from your coworkers or the chance for a run and shower over lunch. This control also creates an opportunity to build more trust between employees and employers. 
  • A 2005 study discovered a boost in job satisfaction with each added hour spent working remotely. (The boost halted after 15 hours.)
  • Entrepreneurs and small business owners can save money on not having office space.
  • Being around less people means less opportunities for sicknesses (not just Covid) to spread. 
  • Removing office politics and distractions opens up the chance for higher levels of productivity and focus.

The Downsides 

  • While more time with the family is an important perk, it can also be a hindrance. Even after children return to school, there will still be distracting moments of bored kids and frustrated partners. Sometimes boundaries with your co-workers are easier than boundaries with a toddler. Also, many experts believe that time away from your spouse and children is healthy for you and your relationship with them.
  • Virtual meetings can amplify inequalities. The New York Times reported women feel that video calls make it tougher to get a word in.
  • Humans are social creatures and the insulated nature of remote work can decrease intel-sharing. It also can decrease a sense of comradery and meaningful collaboration among coworkers.
  • Physical activity is limited-- no more walking around the office or to meetings. You are more likely to be confined to the same space most of the day, which can damage blood circulation and your body’s oxygen supply. 
  • Forbes recently reported on a February 2021 Trades Union Congress report of UK worker habits where ‘more than three million people carried out the equivalent of £24 billion [$33.35 billion] of unpaid labor during 2020. This equates to around 7.7 hours of unpaid overtime every week.’ So as we enter a new world there needs to be a solution to fight the possibility of more hours for less money.
  • Remote working is an option for mostly white-collar office workers, which means it is a luxury, even during a global pandemic. Below the surface of this wades into the waters of socio-economic income inequality, but that article is for another time and place.

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Striking a Balance + Decompressing Tips

A 2019 study revealed 91% of participants listed “better work-life balance” as the most popular reason they prefer remote work. So here are a few tips on how to strike that balance and decompress at the end of the day:

  1. Separate Work from Home

Dedicate an area for work so when the day ends it is easier to transition from a work mindset to a home mindset. The last place you want the stress of work to be associated with is your bed.

  1. Use a Different Computer 

If it is an option, have a computer dedicated to your work life and another to your personal life.

  1. Set Boundaries 

Set boundaries for when you stop working; you do not need to respond to non-urgent emails at 9pm. Consistent after-hours work leads to burnout and lower rates of productivity.

  1. Transitioning from “Work” to “Home” 

Find ways to recreate the mental transition a commute creates between home and work life. Some helpful activities include going for an evening walk, bike ride, yoga, working out, changing your clothes, or taking a shower. Planning these post work activities and sticking to them will give you a reason to “leave” work at a reasonable hour.

  1. Meditate

Use an app like Headspace to help make meditation a daily habit. The Mayo Clinic reports benefits of meditation include:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations.
  • Building skills to manage your stress.
  • Reducing negative emotions.
  • Increasing imagination and creativity.
  • Increasing patience and tolerance.
  1. Take Time Off

Even as the pandemic limits our ability to take traditional vacations, use the time off you have. Find an activity you can safely participate in and get out of the house, if possible. Also as the world returns to normal, still take the days off you are allotted. Finding time for yourself is important for recharging.

Finally, remember the stress of the pandemic will soon be lifted. This will open up brain space and subsequently make working from home, and life in general, easier.

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