Integrating Work and Personal Life when Working from Home

Tue 25 May 2021, telkomtelstra

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing employees to spend more time working from home. Before the pandemic, people imagined working remotely to be sitting on a beach with laptop and soft drink in hand while watching the sun set. However, in early 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic occurred and the enforcement of “lockdowns” required employees to work from home and not travel anywhere. 

This has been the same experience for almost all employees, who can work from anywhere but are not “as free” as usual. Although the government has started the COVID-19 vaccine rollout among employees, the “new normal” is going nowhere.

Over the past year or so of working from home, employees have experienced a range of “struggles”. A survey conducted by Buffer, a social media app developer, questioned employees about their greatest “struggles” working remotely, exploring why it is so hard to maintain a high work performance and integrated home life. 

The survey revealed that 22 percent of respondents reported difficulties unplugging after work. When they have finished a task, they are given additional work, meaning they exceed normal working hours.

Meanwhile, 19 percent of respondents reported feeling lonely. When you are used to working in an office and interacting with other colleagues, it’s easy to feel lonely when working remotely, as you are working alone.

Moreover, difficulties collaborating and communicating were reported by 17 respondents, as not everyone is comfortable using gadgets or technology. Meanwhile, some employees just felt more comfortable communicating or collaborating on work-related issues in a face-to-face environment.

Ten percent of respondents stated that disruptions often arose when working remotely from home. Meanwhile, eight percent of employees felt that being in a different time zone to the colleagues in their team was a problem in itself, especially those from different countries. 

Another struggle is how to stay motivated to work, which is a challenge in itself, especially when working remotely. Those who are used to interacting with others in person can now only stare at a screen/monitor. Seven percent of respondents stated that it was difficult to take vacation time. Meanwhile, four percent of respondents reported other issues, and three percent stated that obtaining a reliable internet connection made it difficult to work remotely.

To address these issues, there are several strategies available to set healthy boundaries when integrating our work and home lives:

1. Choose a Place with Good Lighting and Least Distractions
Designate a table and chair and keep everything you need for work in the one place. Don’t let your workplace become cluttered. This will help you focus and increase your productivity.

According to research by the Harvard Business Review, a clean and tidy desk helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels, and increases your focus and ability to process information, making you more productive at work.

2. Create a Routine at Home and Set Work Hours
This is extremely important and will help you to work efficiently from home, and enjoy work time. You should make a schedule for yourself.

For example: wake up at five in the morning, pray, shower, make breakfast. Then, open your laptop over breakfast and coffee, check messages and updates in Teams, and start the day.

Find the best time management techniques for you, for example, the Podomoro technique. This technique involves taking larger tasks and breaking them down into smaller parts.   

Select a section and work on it for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break (this will mark the completion of 1 Podomoro sprint). Repeat for 3 Podomoro sprints, then rest for longer. Don’t focus too much on your laptop. Give your eyes and brain time to rest.

3. Take Breaks to Stay Productive
The most effective way to stay productive, according to an Airtasker survey, is to rest to avoid saturation. Take short breaks from work and use your free time for self-care, to recharge your mind and body, or to practice a hobby, in order to encourage the creative spark in yourself as an employee.

4. Set Time for Watercooler or Cappuccino Talk
Arrange virtual meetings with colleagues to talk about your daily lives only, and not about work. The topics discussed can be extremely diverse, from the latest films or news, to fashion trends, or fast-food outlets. Great teams are built, not found, and part of building a great team is talking to one another.

5. Don’t Wear Pajamas when Working from Home
When working from home, it is better not to make a habit of relaxing as you usually would. It may be comfortable to wear pajamas all day long but remember that everything has an aura about it.

When we wear proper clothes, we automatically start thinking that we are going to do something important. Moreover, if you have a virtual meeting, try to dress professionally to appreciate the serious nature of the meeting.

6. Enjoy Your Days Off
When working from the office, it can be nice to plan a vacation for the weekend. Maintain this same enthusiasm, even when working remotely. Set into motion everything you wish to do. This keeps the spirit alive and ensures that your mental health is in prime condition.