Written by Leah Free
Thanks to technology, we have the ability to work anytime, anywhere.
Proof when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, almost all of us were sent home to work, and we did it.
Some are still working from home, whilst some are now hybrid workers (something previously almost unheard of in the mainstream working world). Others are now back at the office full-time.
We can be available at the touch of a button – or should we say a tap of the screen – even outside of our working hours. But does the fact that we can be available mean we have to be?
Finding a work-life balance can be hard. But let’s look at five ways that could help us keep work “at work” – even if we work from home.
- Create a plan
It probably sounds a bit cliche, but creating a plan of attack can be really beneficial. Sit down with a cup of tea, or coffee and take a minute to really think things through.
Think about the things outside of the work that are important to you – Family, friends, your pet – then use these to guide how you will manage your work.
A plan can help you put everything in its proper place.
Planning is like a compass that points north, if you have a plan you know which direction you are going.
Need some help? The list below consists of planning software that you can use to help plan your time:
- Trello – Basic version is free. IOS, Android, and Web-friendly. Helps you to organise work systematically.
- Asana – Basic version is free. IOS, Android and Web-friendly. You can organise personal tasks effortlessly, track individual tasks and divide big tasks into smaller parts. You can also attach files from dropbox and Google drive into a task.
- Todoist – Free plan for starters. IOS, Android, Web-friendly. Simplifies your personal task in one place. Prioritises personal tasks in an efficient way so you focus on the important task at the right time.
- Friday – Online, Mobile friendly, Mac app (beta). You can set goals and create posts with ease. You’ll receive emails with your day’s agenda and you can view all your tasks in one area.
- Create a schedule
Making a plan and creating a schedule work in perfect harmony.
Your plan is to have a great work-life balance. Your schedule is the time you allow to actually do it.
A schedule can provide a little motivation to help get you into a good routine, which then becomes natural to follow each day.
You may take a day at a time, or you might be great at scheduling a week at a time, or even a month. Figure out what works for you and go for it.
When it comes to a great schedule – consistency is key. Get up at the same time every morning, and go to bed at the same time every night if you’re able to and start work at the right time, and finish work at the right time too.
And once you’ve stopped, stop.
- Say no to work when necessary
OK. We know what you’re thinking: ‘say no to work…. In this climate?!’ But let’s think about this for a minute.
When we look at this world’s economic situation we know we need to work, and some extra work can be great, but if you take on so much work that you’re overrun and you don’t get to spend time with your family and friends, then it might be time to press the pause button.
In some cases, it might be wise to decline or even delegate some work if it means spending some extra hours with your loved ones.
Would sitting at your desk all hours help? Would taking on so much work that the only time you see your kids is when they’re fast asleep be beneficial to your overall happiness and health?
We know this is a tough one.
Why not make it clear to your boss, or client, the time or days you will be available for them to contact you and make it clear that you will only pick up messages and get in touch with them during your working hours. That way if they do contact you outside of your set time frame, you don’t have to feel pressured to reply.
If you are contacted with a job emergency and you can’t get there in the timeframe they need, could you refer them to someone else?
- Allow for exceptions
After looking at saying no to extra work, let’s look at the times you say yes to extra work.
Remember that schedule!
Make sure when you take on extra work, that you schedule a time to be with your family and friends. Don’t just pay lip service to this idea, actually write it down in your schedule. Got a daily school run, training session or even lunch with your mum to factor in? Include it in your schedule, so you can see it in black and white, and you can book meetings and work around it without feeling like you’re bailing out on something.
It can be easy to get caught up with extra work. But if your phone pings telling you it’s bingo night with your mum, don’t forget to shut down the computer and go for it.
Extra tip: Discuss and share your schedule with your partner or spouse so that when you’re taking on extra work, they can adjust their expectations and offer support as necessary. That way they can support you and know when you’ll need the space.
- Protect your health
Keeping our mental, physical, and emotional health strong is what will help us to keep going and also contributes to a healthy work-life balance.
How do we do that?
- Take breaks regularly – Whether you work from home or in an office, take breaks regularly. The NHS recommends 5-10 minutes every hour away from your screen. If you are able to, take that time to stretch, go outside for some fresh air, and make yourself a drink. This will not only help your health but also your productivity too.
- Exercise – When you’ve finished work, or before you even start, see if you can do some exercise.
A ten-minute brisk walk a day is good, especially if you have a busy schedule. It’s recommended to exercise 150 minutes per week to help maintain a healthy body.
It all depends on your schedule and what works for you. But some physical exercise will be beneficial. Don’t forget to put it in black and white in your schedule to help you stick to your new habit.
- Stay connected – Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to your family and friends. Schedule in time to pick up the phone, or even see each other face to face, and talk.
- Rest – A wise king once said “Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind”. Meaning: It’s better to take time to rest and look back on what we’ve accomplished than to ‘work work work’ and miss out on the enjoyments of life.
Do you feel you have a pretty decent work-life balance?
Leaving work ‘at work’ can be hard, whether you work in the office, or at home. Finding the ideal work-life balance will be an ongoing process that constantly needs reevaluation.
Why not discuss this with your family and get their honest opinions. Be sure to listen to their input and you might learn something about yourself and your habits that you hadn’t even realised.
Pushed for time? Here are the highlights:
- Create a plan – Prioritise your relationships with your family and friends and try to get work, to work around them.
- Create a schedule – When you have a busy workload, remember to schedule in time to be with your family or friends. Schedule a date night or a family meal. And keep the phone away when you’re together.
- Say no to work – In some cases, especially if you’re already busy, it may be best to delegate work or turn it down.
- Make exceptions – An ideal work-life balance needs continual review, allow for exceptions where necessary.
- Protect your health – Simply put, you’re no good to yourself or your family if you’re exhausted. Make sure you take the time to exercise, communicate, and rest.