Maintaining a work-life balance

Right now the lines in our lives are blurred. Work is at home, school is at home, the gym is at home and yet we still need home to be a place where we can relax and unwind. For many working from home it is even harder than normal to switch off and it's not doing our mental health any favours. Even before now it was becoming increasingly difficult to establish definition between our home and work life. The developments in technology means most of us are always contactable and effectively 'on'.

There are of course benefits of working from home; continual access to the kettle without having to make 'a round', the ability to monitor your own work environment without a co-worker wanting the radiator turned up or the window opened and putting a wash on first thing and being able to hang it out in your lunchbreak gives you an opportunity to get ahead with the chores. However, it is becoming very difficult for people to distinguish between work and home and this is a cause for concern. If you feel your work and home life are becoming too entwined then read on for some tips on how to disconnect.

Maintaining a work-life balance

Have a designated work space

This may seem obvious but many people are flitting about their homes setting down their laptop wherever is convenient that day. If you have a spare room you can use then this would be a great start. Having a designated office even if it means converting a garage or shed can be valuable in the long term. The act of 'going to work' even if it is just into another room, can focus your mind and can help to keep your work life separate. For those living with others or with children, this may also act as a signal to them that you are at work and are not to be disturbed. It might be useful to have a system in place in case your children need you though!

Maintaining a work-life balance

Stick to your working hours

Working 9-5 is almost a distant memory for many. With shift work and the rise of flexible working especially amongst parents, the hours not working can become indistinct. The only way to achieve distinction is to be strict. If you're supposed to start at 8 then do just that but make sure you finish on time too. Schedule breaks and stick to them. You may discover that you are more productive knowing that you only have a set time to achieve what you need to. In fact if you give yourself a realistic amount of time to complete a task then it will usually take you that long (likewise if you give yourself 2 days to do something that will take half a day, it'll probably take you 2 days!) Once you've finished for the day don't be tempted to go back and do extra, it can wait.

Maintaining a work-life balance

Make technology friend not foe

The ability to have work emails on your phone can be a blessing or a curse. It's oh so easy to just check them one last time after dinner or at the weekend but even this will have you feeling like you're never 'off'. If you can have a separate mobile for work then great but if that's not possible then use the features your phone has. Most phones and email providers have options to mute notifications. It's recommended to set your emails to be muted out of working hours, that way you can't be tempted to look at what has come in on a Saturday afternoon. Of course if you need to be contactable during certain hours then so be it but perhaps think about whether or not you can mute emails from certain senders as a compromise.

maintaining a work-life balance

Get outside

Make the most of your daily exercise and get outside into the fresh air. Being outside brings so many benefits including much needed vitamin D (when the sun is shining), lower stress levels, improved healing and perhaps most useful for a working day; improved focus. If you've been sat at a desk for too long, a 15 minute stroll can really help revitalise you and enable you to be more productive. Don't be tempted to pop your earphones in or make a quick work call. The best thing you can do is to enjoy your surroundings, take in the buildings, trees and landscape more than you usually would. Look for the detail, each time you're bound to see something new. Listening out for the birds and looking at nature is also highly relaxing and can make you feel very calm.

Maintaining a work-life balance

Be social

Despite restrictions it is still possible to connect with friends and family. Meet one other person for a walk a couple of times a week if possible. If you can't meet physically then why not try an old fashioned phone call rather than a text. Having a good conversation on the phone can really boost your mood. Technology enables us to connect in so many ways now but if you've been on zoom meetings all day and you can't face another video call why not write a letter or card to a friend? Now more than ever we need out support network and so staying in touch however that works for you is essential for our mental health. There are so many options to show someone you're thinking about them even if you don't feel like speaking directly. Sending brownies through the post or a delicious hamper will really make them smile and give you a boost too.

 Maintaining a work-life balance

Stick to a routine

Most of us need a routine of some sort. Whilst life right now is anything but normal, it's even more important therefore to have a routine in place to keep you motivated. Children especially thrive on a routine but it is important to note that not all routines look the same. As long as you have a plan each day that's enough. Not everyone has a job that enables a Monday to Friday standardised timetable but if you can come up with a daily schedule so that everyone knows what to expect from each day then it'll make a for a happier household.

Maintaining a work-life balance

Tidy house, tidy mind

If you're living in cluttered chaos then chances are your mind is likely to be feeling muddled too. Working amongst mess can be distracting and so taking a bit of time to organise your surroundings can be really valuable. Professional organiser Kate Carr suggests creating an ordered workspace separate from your general living area. If you can keep only what you need in the area you work in then you are more likely to be able to concentrate and give necessary focus to your tasks. Spending a few minutes at the end of the day tidying up your desk and putting away your laptop and paperwork, perhaps keeping it safe in a laptop pouch, will make you feel like you've properly finished, and will result in a tidy workspace ready for the following day.