Working from home used to be considered a perk but now it’s a blessing that’s keeping businesses afloat and putting food on the table for more than half of our population. According to a study by Clutch, “66% of employees in the U.S. are working from home.” Despite the sheer gratitude for being able to continue working from the safety of our homes right now, there are some challenges. For many, it’s far from the ideal employee experience.
Some find working from home difficult, especially those with families or roommates, as well as those with small living spaces or lack of resources. Maybe you don’t have the self-discipline or motivation when working from your home – this is totally normal but also adjustable. It takes time to get used to it, but once you find a workflow that suits your lifestyle, you can set yourself up for success. Even as restrictions ease and workplaces reopen, a lot of people will continue to work from home as a precaution. Depending on where the home is you’re working from, this new normal where every day is “take your kids/pet/spouse to work day” could last a while yet. With your kids running around, your spouse on a business call in the other room and your pet begging for attention, how can you possibly get anything done?
Here are five tips we’ve found helpful for coping with a crowded work-from-home situation.
Keep your schedule consistent so you can coordinate home responsibilities with work tasks.
Try to take advantage of peak productivity times and design your work schedule around them. Include daily home activities like playtime or naptime for your kids to make sure you’re using those time slots wisely. Your bosses and colleagues are probably keeping less-traditional hours too, so try not to worry about keeping a strict nine-to-five mentality. Once you have a schedule that is consistent, share that with your work team so they know when and how best to reach you – you don’t want your phone going off while your kids are napping and neither do they. Consistency is key but the larger situation is anything but constant, so you’ll need to review your schedule regularly. And don’t forget to include your partner or roommate(s) when doing so. When sharing space, your schedules need to coexist, not conflict. It will improve the employee experience for everyone.
Delegate tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Whether it’s your spouse, your roommates or your work team, delegate and share tasks that cause more stress while working from home. Do you have a video conference in ten minutes, but your kids are vying for your attention and dawdling over lunch? Work with your spouse’s schedule to see if they can take over and keep them occupied during your call. Be sure to return the favor when their schedule needs it. Even in households where chores were already shared, some adjustments may be necessary to balance the new circumstances like homeschooling or extra cleaning.
Designate your workspaces. If you have a spouse or roommate, make sure your spaces are separate.
Create a workspace that allows you to distinguish relaxation time from work time. This doesn’t have to be an official office space. You can get creative and use a kitchen table or island. You can get a TV tray and set it up in a bright room, facing the window and away from distractions. Establishing your workspace allows you to customize your employee experience. As long as you have what you need to do your work (a reliable internet connection in most cases) and you’re not going to use the same space for your relaxing activities, you have your new workspace. Make sure your space is separate from your spouse’s or roommate’s – ideally, in a separate room.
If you don’t have the option of spreading out or having a physically separate place for work and leisure, there are other ways you can mentally delineate work from play. When you’re done work for the day, “commute” to your “off-work” mindset by clearing away your work materials or taking a walk. Put the work computer away. Switch from the chair to the sofa, even if they’re in the same room.
Whether it’s to have playtime with your children, walk the dog or just get outside with your significant other, breaks are important for optimizing performance. When you set time aside for things that bring you joy, it will make work feel less daunting. If you’re taking the dog for a walk, leave your phone at home. Playing with the kids? Put it on silent and give them your full attention. Embrace the moment. Shutting off your mind during this downtime can bring clarity and make room for creativity. It’s like rebooting your brain. Where before a break you may be stuck on a problem, when you come back with fresh eyes, suddenly you’ll see the solution. Breaks are also a great way to reward yourself for completing a task. It isn’t just others, but ourselves we need to treat with kindness and understanding during these difficult times.
Respect each other’s time and space.
Last, but not least, if you’re working from home with others, make sure you’re respecting one another’s work time and space. If you know your spouse has a conference call at a certain time, make sure you’re not playing music or watching a video with the sound on in the same room. Don’t leave one partner to the constant interruptions of childcare. Take turns seeing to their needs (and complaints). Go over your schedules every week to ensure they don’t clash and be aware of those important quiet times. You’re both going to need a break from one another too. Try to include some alone time for each of you (outside your work time). Just remember it ultimately comes down to communication and respect. What you want and need for yourself, the others in your home are probably looking for and needing the same.
When uncertain circumstances like these arise, we must remind ourselves that everyone is experiencing hardship in their own way. There are others for whom the employee experience is worse. We need to work together to keep our work and home lives as normal as possible while doing our part to slow the spread of the virus. We hope these tips help recalibrate your work/life balance as these interesting times get even more interesting.