“Half of employees working from home during the lockdown are unhappy with their work-life balance, a survey has found.[i]
A poll of 500 workers, conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) over the last two weeks, found 50 per cent of respondents were not happy with their current work-life balance, with 48 per cent putting in longer and more irregular hours than they would under normal circumstances.”[ii]
There are many factors during this time of living in lockdown that contribute to increased stress levels. Long work hours, increased work-loads, home-schooling, looking after family members’ well-being, or simply copying with the day-to-day fears about the Coronavirus pandemic all affect physical and mental well-being.
Employers still have a duty to support the welfare of their employees whilst home working. The Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) has produced an easy-to-follow guide for employers with practical advice to support employee well-being: “Ten top tips for Healthy Remote Working”[iii]. Employees themselves have a responsibility to look after their own well-being whilst working from home.
With the distinct line between ‘work’ and ‘home’ life now becoming blurred, it’s easy to see how individuals’ stress levels have increased as they feel they should always be ‘on call’ or ‘at work’. Taking measures to distinguish between time spent ‘working’ and ‘not at work’ is important to ensure we keep working efficiently and productively whilst allowing ourselves enough time to switch off from work to relax, re-charge and spend quality time with household members.
There has been a lot of ‘working from home’ advice recently. We believe these practical tips are the best to help create a distinction between work and home life and encourage you to look after yourself.
- Set up a designated work area where possible – having a designated area or home office which you can walk away from at the end of the working day creates a physical division between work and home life. Where this is not possible, turn off work emails and notifications at the end of the day and avoid the temptation to respond to work emails and social media.
- Plan your next day’s ‘to do list’ at the end of the working day – so that you can pick up where you left off the following day. This also helps to clear your mind and thoughts from work tasks, allowing you to focus on family or ‘me’ time.
- Get dressed for work at the beginning of the day – not necessarily office wear but something smart (especially if you’ll be on video) and comfortable. Consider having a change of clothing/lounge wear for when you finish work.
- Plan short breaks throughout the day – working continuously without breaks is detrimental to well-being and productivity and is not sustainable long-term. This applies to being at home just as much as in the office. Plan breaks at the end of an activity, or interrupt a long task with a break, to improve concentration.
- Take a proper lunch break – take time to eat your lunch slowly and mindfully to aid digestion and for the body to absorb nutrients.
- Plan daily exercise – if you schedule exercise into your diary you are more likely to commit. Plan exercise to best suit your circumstances. For example, use exercise as a break during the working day or define the end of the workday by getting outdoors with the family for a walk or cycle. Exercise is great for physical, mental and emotional well-being. Even just a 20-minute walk can help boost your mood. Exercise outdoors if you can; the well-being benefits of getting out into the fresh air (preferably a green space if accessible) is uplifting and re-energising.
- Nutrition: it’s tempting whilst at home to let slip the good habits you might usually adopt in the office:
- Stay hydrated – keep a bottle of water beside your ‘workstation’ and remember to drink throughout the day. Don’t be tempted to up the tea and coffee whilst neglecting your water intake.
- Prepare a bowl of healthy snacks eg. dried or fresh fruit, nuts and seeds – keep these within easy reach, that way you’ll be less tempted to go for the sweet treats.
- Avoid sugary drinks and snacks – these give you a blood sugar ‘high’ and can then deplete your energy levels, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic.
- Make sure you are sitting correctly – sitting hunched over your desk can cause fatigue and muscular aches, making you less productive and less likely to finish tasks when planned. For more advice on how to sit properly while working visit our website.
- Plan your work hours in advance – daily or weekly – and aim to finish work when planned. If this means taking a few hours off and then working later in the day you can at least have a clear idea of when you’ll finish. Consider using an ‘out of office’ email message with your availability the following day, so that others know not to expect a reply from you that evening. This helps lessen the guilt if you feel you ‘should’ be available 24-7. If you are facing distractions and have other responsibilities, like looking after children, try to take advantage of ‘quiet times’ to schedule in phone calls or more focused work, to reduce the stress of having to multi-task
- Plan activities with family members or for yourself to look forward to at the end of the day. This will give you the incentive to finish work at the planned time.
We hope these tips help to define your work-life balance. Some might seem obvious but putting them into practice on a regular basis is not always easy. Even small changes can make a positive difference and help prevent feeling constantly stressed.
We’d love your feedback – please let us know how any of these tips have helped.