Working from home is a balancing act. Each and every one of us are balancing our home and work lives, our family and personal commitments, the education and well being of our family and our commitments to out companies, our obligations to deliver reports on time and our physical health, our relationships with our colleagues and our mental well being. It is not easy and it is not a skill that can be learned from a book, article, training course or classroom. There is no one size fits all. Every one of us must determine for ourselves how we need to balance our time, and we need to do it constantly over time as our situation evolves.
Finding balance over time
At different times in a period of working from home, to maintain balance in life will mean shifting priorities and focus between the various roles and responsibilities we each hold. This will mean changing how you prioritize your work, family, personal and social commitments so that you are able to remain healthy, sustain your family and meet your employers expectations.
Balance when starting to work from home
Working from home in conventional times
When people first start to work from home, if it is in more normal times when they may be working from home alone while colleagues and family continue with their normal lives, with family members leaving the home for work and school and colleagues still gathering in their workplace, the normal pace for working from home is that the home worker would typically work similar hours to their office based colleagues. This matched pace makes it easy for the home worker to maintain a contiguous relationship with work colleagues. Instances of this kind of working from home may be establishing a new office, recovering from a medical procedure, having home renovations undertaken or similar. It is typically for a finite and often relatively short period, and, as it is stand alone, is easiest managed through simply a location displacement.
Another example of this situation may be for the home worker to be caring for a family member such as a child, partner or parent. In this instance, there would be an expectation that the home worker will adjust their working pattern to allow flexibility to provide the care they need while still delivering against agreed work commitments. This situation can be require more adjustment than a more simple working from home undertaking as described in the previous paragraph, but again, generally the rest of the community are still going about their normal lives.
Balance when working from home during the Corona virus pandemic
We are however living in highly unconventional times. Rather than having small numbers of the workforce working from home we now have large portions of many businesses in this situation. It seems that in many organisations, if a task can be performed from home (or from off site), then that is happening, huge portions of many parts of the workforce are now working from home, balancing their lives with those of their partners, children, relatives and colleagues.
The simple times of working from home, which for many meant having a peaceful day in the home office completing a piece of work without interruption are now gone. The working day for many of us is now completely blended with the personal day, family and work rolled into one, a hugely complex, interconnected challenge. Parents are learning how to home school children while holding down a job. Couples are fighting for space and the quiet needed to participate in video calls. Adults are worried about the well being of parents as well as finding the goods and provisions they need to continue their lives. All not knowing when the next change will come, when they will be allowed to return to work or when a friend, colleague or family member may need their assistance.
This challenge is balance on steroids, its trying to juggle blindfold when you don’t actually know what you will be juggling next. Is there any wonder people are reacting in unpredictable ways.
“there is no best practice for this situation”
I can’t and wont try to tell you there is a simple answer, that would be so untrue as to be ludicrous. Similarly, there is no best practice for any of this, we have not had a situation where most of the developed world was under so much simultaneous novel change as this, and definitely not inn our modern era. Technology is a double edged sword in these times, the positives are that it enables up to continue much of our lives while largely remaining in the confines of our homes, it brings us streaming services, video calls, email and many other benefits. The negatives though are that it exposes us to the extremes of news, the sensationalist approach of main stream media, the amplification of social media and the frustration of not knowing what or who to trust for information.
Recommendations for balance
A few suggestions I would make around balance would be these:
- Try, where possible, to ensure that you prioritize your and your family’s personal well being over any other pressures in your life. Without your health it is hard to fulfill any other commitments.
- Find a balance in your work where you are meeting the needs of your employer while also getting sufficient rest and supporting your and you family’s well being. This may involve finding the flexibility to work unusual hours and if that is the case, make sure your employer understands.
- Agree with any other working members of your household who are also working from home around things like housework, who works where and when etc. Housework can be a source of tension during less restricted times so it has the potential be even more so now.
- Work out a schedule for any home schooling commitments and incorporate that into your work plans.
- Balance your media intake so that you are limiting your consumption of ‘news’ to reliable sources that are relevant to your location and situation.
- Find time to quiet your mind, try reading something completely different, listening to music, or one of the very good meditation tools such as Headspace.
- Where possible and permitted, try to take exercise, whether that is walking the dog, walking with family, yoga or exercising at home. The act of exercising is healthy and will help to rest your mind.
Above all else, try to remain mindful of the impact the current pandemic is having on your physical, mental and professional health. Continually working to retain a healthy balance in our lives is more important now than ever.