Regaining a Balance During Remote Work

By Kelly Bielefeld

Our work and home lives can easily be tilted out of balance.  By creating some boundaries, the healthy balance of our lives can be restored.

Research tells us that overall, individuals prefer to work remotely from home if possible. Productivity usually improves, and there are other ancillary benefits to this model of work.

For some of us, the response to the Covid 19 pandemic created this situation for us, but now that remote work is more widespread, many experts think it is here to stay.

The adjustment from on-site work to remote work can be difficult. When working in an office, our lives are much more compartmentalized. Work is work, home is home, personal time is personal. For many of us, the compartmentalized nature of our previous lives helped us to maintain a balance of our time to feel both healthy and productive.

I for one did not realize that my “office” life had certain built-in factors that created a natural balance for me. The commute was a natural time of focus and decompression. The coffee break was a timely break for my brain. The phone call that interrupted my flow, while probably annoying at the time, was a natural avenue of connection with others. Even having a door for my office that I could close when privacy was needed...I took all of this for granted.

I didn’t even realize at the time that these parts of my day helped me to be productive. But when I work from home, I have realize that I have to be much more intentional about these small factors that helped to create a balanced life.

While each of us has different opportunities and obstacles when working remotely, here are some common areas that might need attention:

Work and Family

Balancing Work and Family - One of the main adjustments for remote workers is “sharing” an office with everyone in the house. Even if you are fortunate enough to have a defined space in your home, noise and distractions slowly creep in to the work life. Boundaries are important in these situations. Children need to know how to get help if they need it, and even spouses might need to be reminded that work time is work time. Increased family time and the money that is saved in a 60 minute daily commute are great benefits to remote work. But it is essential for remote workers to keep a schedule to the day and that everyone in the house is able to know and respect that schedule.

To Create Balance... Lines on the floor to outline your office just like Les Nessman! Actually, it probably needs to be something a little more tangible than that. Boundaries are the key to maintaining a healthy work/home/family balance when working remotely. A clear daily schedule, a space free of distraction, and working household guidelines are helpful tools to manage this.

Availability and Being Unplugged

Balancing Being Available and Being Unplugged - I was caught off guard by this when I first started working remotely. I was under the impression that when working from home I would be more productive and efficient with fewer “work distractions” around me. While this might have been true, I also found that it was much easier to just keep working well into the evening. It was like I literally never left the office, so there I was, responding to emails and answering phone calls. The line between office and home was nonexistent. This created a feeling of burnout by the end of the work week.

To Create Balance... Don’t let mobile devices become mobile. Once I started the habit of leaving my laptop in the office, plugged my phone into the charger, and intentionally unplugged from work, I felt much more productive and effective in all areas of my life.

Connection and Isolation

Balancing Connection and Isolation - Without a doubt, this is the largest struggle of working remotely. Some personalities fit well with minimal social interaction. But for most of us who are accustomed to the workplace vibe, working remotely can be like a culture shock. Zoom meetings don’t lend themselves to small talk, chit chat, and catching up about the grand kids. Working remotely can feel very isolated, and even lonely for those who are new to it.

To Create Balance... Try to spend 15 minutes a day to learn about a person you are interacting with virtually. The small talk of the office is easily lost when working remotely. Even though large group Zoom meetings might feel awkward, I have found that one-on-one conversations online are comfortable and easy. Most of us are trying to be so efficient, we don’t make time for this. Whether at the start of a meeting or at the end of a call, intentionally seeking connection with others helps us all to feel like we are better together.

Our work and home lives can easily be tilted out of balance. By creating some boundaries, unplugging when possible, and connecting intentionally, the healthy balance of our lives can be restored.

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