“Anjali has been working on a presentation since morning. It is 4 p.m. and she hasn’t eaten lunch yet. Most days she spends on the couch sitting in front of her laptop. She often loses track of time. She feels tiresome and bored easily.”
Although working from home has its perks, it also does have its downside. Maintaining a work-life balance while working from home can be a daunting task (especially during the lockdown). Establishing a harmony between work and life such that you give sufficient time to both sides is crucial. Still, a lot of people struggle like Anjali on day to day basis. Here, are some suggestions that you can incorporate in your life to balance both sides.
Working, eating, watching T.V. from the same couch or sofa can becoming taxing and overwhelming. It may seem tempting to work on a laptop sitting comfortably on your bed. Consider this: your bed is the place where you sleep. Your brain has now associated sleep with the bed. Now every time you work on the bed you will feel sleepy if not immediately then sooner. This can impact your productivity. It is essential to have a discrete workspace. Create your private work desk with all your work essentials on it either in a separate room or in a distinct corner of the house.
Make sure that you only use that space for work and no other task. Avoid eating on the work desk. Research has found that a natural setting and exposure to sunlight reduce depressed mood and anxiety (Mihyang An et al., 2016). Therefore, try to have as much natural light as possible in your workspace. Play with colours while setting your workspace. Certain colours like white and blue can make you feel calm. Ravi M. & Rui Z. (2009) found that colours like red can enhance performance on a detailed oriented task and blue can enhance creativity.
Steer clear of multitasking. Eating while working on the laptop, cooking while taking up calls related to work, or helping your kids with their homework while reading some important work documents can be considered as examples of multitasking. This can produce errors in work. Take breaks and try to complete other housework at that time.
Once this is taken care of, carefully schedule your work time from family time. This is so because you can lose track of time while working from home. You may end up working overtime neglecting your family. Inform your family members about your working time so that boundaries are set clearly. Once the work is done, move away from that place imagining as if you are coming home from your workplace. Do not bring your work laptop or documents to other areas of your home. Step out of your professional role as soon as the work ends. When spending time with family make sure to switch roles and avoid thinking about work. Communicate with them about your job requirements, upcoming projects, and work stress.
It may seem comfortable to wear casual clothes while working, however wearing one’s work clothes can help to switch mentally from family time to work time. Not only that, but you will also feel trustworthy and competent because of this simple change (Katherine K. & Joy V., 2007).
Work from home can become dull and monotonous especially in lockdown when you cannot go out to refresh yourself. Engage with family in your free time. Go to your terrace and spend some time watering plants, talk with your family members, or don a chef’s hat. Connect with your friends and colleagues frequently. Take mini-breaks. Walk around your home, stand in the balcony, and observe, listen to one song, practice deep breathing, stretch, etc. this will prevent burnout in the long run. In a study by Sooyeol Kim et al. (2016), it was found that micro‐break activities such as relaxation and social activities reduced the effects of work demands on end‐of‐workday negative affect.
Work from home often creates an inactive lifestyle with much of the time spent sitting and very little to no exercising. Not only such a lifestyle will reduce your metabolism but it can also make you feel less energetic and more tired. Incorporate exercise routines into your daily life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be cardio, but anything that energizes you. It could be yoga or dance as well. Try to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time every day.
Amidst all this, it is important to recognize the existing differences in the attitude of people towards women who are working from home especially because of lockdown in India. It is more difficult for them to achieve this balance as they have to juggle between household chores, their children, and professional commitments. In such situations, other family members must come to their rescue and divide the household chores.
These are not hard and fast rules or ways to maintain your work-life balance. Finding that perfect balance demands experimenting with what works for you and what doesn’t. Like a chemist, you can mix and match these ways to create a perfect balance in the beaker of your life.