Structuring a work-life balance.

The Government officially revoked their advice to work from home where possible on the 1st August, a signal to ‘Go back to work if you can.’ As the Government continue their attempt to balance the economic and health risks of the pandemic, it is hoped that by encouraging people to return to their offices it will subsequently kick start the boost to the economy.

However, a recent poll suggests that 4 out of 5 workers want to maintain working from home despite pandemic restrictions having been lifted. Many have sampled the benefits of flexibility that accompany remote working, but for some conscientious young professionals a lot is demanded in return.

The working day and home life morph in to a single entity where you can be expected to be accessible 24/7, making it increasingly difficult to ‘clock off’ and the additional stress that entails. Indeed productivity in many cases has increased, in a constant bid to disprove the ‘shirking from home’ myth. 

Employees can feel disconnected without interaction with colleagues that is not over a virtual meeting. Don’t underestimate the influence of informal conversations by the coffee machine, particularly when it comes to sharing information between younger and more experienced workers.

Depending on who you share your working from home environment with, space may be limited and expectations on acceptable noise levels varied. Young children, parents and annoyingly buoyant furloughed flatmates may all intrude upon your working day. There may also have been additional household costs incurred, for instance to ensure stable internet access. You may be able to claim tax relief for some bills but not for services, such as broadband, that you use for both private and business use.

Conversely, over the four months of enforced remote working, many have made substantial savings by not incurring travel fares or expensive city prices for lunch and coffees. There are also the non-financial savings of hours spent on an unnecessary commute and the additional hours of sleep you are able to recoup. For some this freeing up of time has been more valuable than any monetary reimbursement… you can not buy back lost time.

Having more independence when working from home means that employees are in control of their own self-motivation and self-discipline, subsequently adjusting their personal time management to suit. Focus and concentration can improve resulting in increased productivity. Consistent communication between teams and managers will lead to improved technical and communication skills.

Clearly there are benefits to the work-life balance that a career working from home can offer.

Here are some tips for efficient remote working whilst keeping your spirits up:

  • Establish a routine. 

Once you have satisfied the prospect of staying in pyjamas all day, return to a routine that is more conducive to a business environment. Getting washed and dressed improves your state of mind and will psychologically prepare you to start work.

  • Dedicate a workspace.

Available space within your home may be at a premium, but as far as you can assign a separate area which you can identify as your workplace, clearing papers away each night as necessary. Ideally sit at an adjustable chair so you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor.

  • Engaging communication. 

To ensure you don’t feel isolated dedicate some time to pick up the phone and have a real conversation, preferably on FaceTime, without relying on email and messaging. Experiencing loneliness has been a major factor on mental well being during this period of pandemic.

  • Be responsive.

Reply promptly to correspondence during the working day, if only to confirm receipt of an enquiry or request, and outline a reasonable timescale in which you will be able to respond. By keeping these channels of communication open you will be able to take command of your time management and make expectations clear. In turn, this should help to prevent the blur between the working day and your personal time.

  • Take regular breaks.

Short breaks throughout the day are beneficial both mentally and physically. The monotony of staring solely at your screen for too long can make you more tired and less motivated, thus hindering your productivity levels.

  • Regular team communication.

There are numerous platforms readily available for teams to communicate via instant message or video and share documents or screens whilst working remotely. It is important that your team ethos is strengthened despite the geographic distancing. Dedicate a time to chat as you would in the office and encourage online team building activities.  Who knew we would all love a virtual quiz?!

It is likely that many people whilst wanting to return to the office environment for face to face engagement, will also want to maintain some of the independence that comes with working from home.

Flexibility in the workplace is key to the future of the new normal, and current young professionals are in the enviable position of being able to dictate how they want to structure a work-life balance that they can truly benefit from.

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