Routine is key to finding balance. A few tips are:
- Designate a place for your work, especially if you don’t have an obvious one (i.e. no office).
- Schedule Zoom calls with household members in mind (avoid bandwidth and sound battles).
- Take planned breaks and engage with family (more likely to get space/peace when you need it).
- Try ‘working’ side by side with kids' distance learning. If you’re both on a computer, you can do it together (I do this with my pre-K kid!).
- Make sure there is an end to your work day. Disconnect from work and re-engage with family.
The key to working remotely is the same for work-life balance, which is deliberate time management.
While the temptation to blend your home and work tasks together is strong while working remote, be mindful that small tasks can spiral into long stints of unfocused activity, usually unproductive. Use the same skills you use to organize your work to blend in your chores and breaks at home.
It’s tempting to only work on what your boss has eyes on at the office. When you work at home, this pressure is gone. When I work remote, I lay out exactly what I want to get accomplished that week. Once I know my goals, I set time out for specific tasks, break times, and checking emails. Adhering to this schedule makes it easier to measure productivity and look back on the day knowing you made progress toward your goals.
There are two main topics when broaching the subject of having a home office: balancing family, and overworking. Working remotely requires a certain level of resolve and more importantly, establishing a schedule. Having a schedule established at home not only helps to keep you focused, but sets known boundaries for your family so they understand what you are doing and when you absolutely can’t have non-essential interruptions. Overworking is certainly easy to do when you have the luxury of working from home. If you are engulfed in a project, sometimes you tend to lose track of time, and also your personal boundaries as far as strict working hours, start to skew. If this is how you prefer to operate, there is nothing wrong with that, but if you feel it is slowly starting to spiral out of control, that’s where schedules can save you. Don’t subject yourself to feeling guilty for establishing a hard stop for your own mental health and balance.
The key to this is structure. Act as if you’re working in the office. Start and end times as well as your lunch break at home should be the same times as if you were in the office. Make clear when you are off the clock through an automated email reply so that your co-workers know that they are not being ignored. Discuss this with your supervisor so that company goals and needs are maintained. If successful, you may have an opportunity to have more flexibility to your work/life balance when the COVID-19 crisis ends.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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