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If you’re working from home it’s important to switch on for the workday and equally vital to switch off to avoid work stress and maintain work-life balance.
All around the world, from Berlin to Brisbane, companies have asked employees to work from home – many for the first time. This major workplace shift has required workers to suddenly upgrade their tech skills, adapt to different productivity markers and stay on task away from the office.
In what could be considered a global experiment, workers are adjusting to new routines and expectations while ensuring they are being productive and coping with the distractions of being at home. But just as employers and employees are having to rapidly learn to “switch on” to work mode at home, they need to also learn to “switch off” from work.
Failing to draw clear lines between work hours and personal time when remote working risks a drop in productivity and engagement, heightened levels of stress and, perhaps, even work burnout. Switching off from work is essential for wellbeing, work-life-balance and workplace satisfaction, so here’s how to do it.
“My morning routine is critical in setting my work-from-home day up,” says online executive Kylie Little, who has combined working from home and working in an office for more than 10 years. “I do some exercise, have breakfast away from my desk and get the kids off to school. I’ve already done those before-work morning jobs like getting dressed properly and cleaning up after breakfast, so when I walk back in the door from school drop-off I go straight to my desk – the ‘office’ – and start my work day.”
When working from home, having a clear routine of when the work day begins and ends is critical to ensuring you don’t get caught working around the clock. Kylie suggests making sure your working day includes a lunch break and regular mini-breaks to reset.
And, at the other end of the day, she signals the work day is over by signing off to colleagues as if she’s leaving work, writing a to-do list for the next day and tidying up her desk, which keeps her physical and mental health in check. “I’ve heard of some people even putting their laptop and phone into their work bag at the end of the day to signal the work day is done but I haven’t got to that stage yet.”
With the commute gone, it may seem like there’s more time in the working day but that is often countered by the distractions of working from home (kids, Netflix, neighbours chopping down a tree). If your motivation and focus are waning you might benefit from some productivity tips.
A simple visual productivity system with two “rules”: workers should be able to see their workload and workers should limit their to-do tasks so they are not overwhelmed. This method is often achieved using a chart of Post-it notes.
This is definitely a KISS (keep it simple, stupid) method that makes workers accountable and invested. Workers commit to achieving one task a day and then mark that task off a calendar. The goal is not to break the chain of tasks completed – evidenced by marks on the calendar.
This productivity hack helps you achieve work-life balance even when working long hours. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work hard, focused and with no distractions until the timer goes off. Then take a short break. This cycle is repeated four times with workers then being able to take a longer break.
Studies show that isolation and loneliness can inhibit productivity, so regular, relaxed co-worker catch-ups, perhaps via Zoom, Google Hangouts or even just an old fashioned phone call (the remote version of a mid-morning walk to grab a coffee with a colleague), are great for morale and also knowledge swapping about current work projects.
Another colleague catch-up gaining popularity around the world is virtual Friday afternoon drinks. Designed to mark the end of the work week and encourage co-workers to connect away from work demands, digital drinks are being instituted by companies from traditional law firms to tech-savvy e-commerce workplaces and can be raised over Zoom, Google Hangouts and WhatsApp, among other platforms.
Clear communication between teams is essential when remote working and just as a morning all-staff meeting often kicks-off the new remote workday and team tasks are made clear, signing off as if you’re leaving work is equally important. It helps you stop thinking about work and maintain work-life balance.
“When you’re at work, you say goodbye to colleagues when they leave for the day and then everyone knows they are not available,” says Kylie. “I think it’s important to keep that communication up when you’re working from home – perhaps through a group channel like Slack or another platform where everyone can say, ’Bye, see you tomorrow’.”