Maintaining a healthy work-life balance has always been important for people’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Research has shown that striking an equilibrium between the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life leads to less stress, a lower risk of burnout, and a greater sense of well-being.
With the shift to online learning and working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, creating and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is even more crucial since the lines between work and life become blurred. In addition, technology has made work accessible around the clock. While working from home or learning remotely, people can be less efficient by taking longer breaks, getting distracted by house chores that need to get done, or unintentionally prolonging their workday by thinking they have more time to get to working on tasks. Sometimes the complete opposite can happen in which people let work take precedence over everything else in their personal lives and lose themselves in their work.
This blog post will discuss 4 effective strategies for creating and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
- Separating spaces
- Setting work hours
- Reassessing priorities.
Separating your work and life spaces
Environments play a huge role in creating a specific mindset and establishing the mood for certain types of activities. For example, at an office, you are typically more productive because the physical setting and the people in that space are conducive to your work and productivity. If you are at a desk in your office clothes, you will be in character and in work-mode. If you are surrounded by people who are on track and doing their work, you will most likely feel motivated to work on your own tasks as well. That may not be the case when you get home from the office. At home you take off your shoes after a long day, might just want to relax, spend time with family, or get some of the household chores done. The environment of the home influences your motivation for the tasks that need to get done and makes you push your work responsibilities to the back of your mind.
Imagine working or learning from home where your work and life responsibilities clash in the same space. Your mind is at two places at the same time, thinking about both the work and life responsibilities that need to get gone. Not only does this stress you out, but it does not allow you to direct your full attention to either.
That’s why it’s important to separate your spaces. If you have an office at home, try to solely do work in the office and not in other spaces of the house that are not conducive to your productivity at work. Change out of your pajamas or lounge wear and put on your office clothes, or dress business casual to get into the working mindset. And during your lunch break, don’t eat at your desk where you’ll be tempted to rush through your lunch to get back to work. Sit at the kitchen or dining room table and enjoy your break.
Setting strict work hours
One of the problems with working from home is that it’s easy to lose track of time and work more hours during the week than if you were working at the office. Overprioritizing work responsibilities can negatively affect your personal and mental health and can impede on quality time with family and friends. It might be tempting to send a quick work email while out at dinner or step out for a second to answer a brief work call just this once, but it can turn into an unhealthy habit that doesn’t let you disconnect and enjoy your time when you’re not working.
Set strict work hours and stick to them. This not only includes the end of the workday, but weekends and holidays as well. You’ll feel so much more relieved from fully disconnecting. If you have a hard time not thinking about work, find an activity to do after work, such as reading, or a hobby to pass the time.
Technology has made working from home more accessible. If the Covid-19 pandemic happened maybe 30-40 years ago, working or learning remotely might not have been a possibility. Despite the benefits of technology, it is the reason why maintaining a healthy work life balance has been such a struggle for a lot of people. It also extends the work hours of the day when ‘just checking an email’ turns into responding to the email, which leads to you thinking about work outside of work.
Turn off work email notifications outside of the typical 9 to 5. Send your work calls directly to voice mail. If you turn on Do Not Disturb on your phone, only allow certain co-workers’ phone calls to come through for emergencies or extremely urgent matters. Ask your coworkers to respect your time and boundaries. If the distractions are out of sight, they are out of mind, and they won’t end up being a distraction in the first place.
Pay attention to your needs. You might not realize you need something until you’re experiencing the negative effects of burnout and stress, like fatigue or lack of motivation. Make yourself a priority and be kind to yourself. If you are taking on too much work and feeling overwhelmed, ask a coworker for help. If you feel rushed to hand in a project or assignment, ask for an extension with the explanation that you’ll hand in better quality work if you have more time. And make a point to periodically asses your shifting priorities as they depend on what’s going on in your life.
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