It’s been nearly a year since millions of North Americans made the sudden shift to an at-home work environment. What was the right choice for our health and safety became a difficult adjustment for many.
Maybe you’re still struggling to separate home and work life. We get it. When your workspace is your kitchen table and you have a child crawling over your lap during a team call, work-life balance may seem like a goal far out of reach.
To avoid feeling burnt out, overworked, and stressed, we consulted workplace health experts for ways to help you find — and maintain — a better balance.
It’s important to take breaks from work and do things you enjoy. Resist the urge to stay firmly planted in your chair all day. Instead, carve out time for yourself and head outside to soak up the sun and breathe the fresh air. You’re bound to return to your desk re-energized. If the weather outside is frightful, counteract the effects of sitting with some light stretching. There are countless workouts and yoga classes online you can try for free or by subscription. Just remember: every move counts.
Remember those “water cooler chats”, conversations over coffee, and lunches outside the office with co-workers? During this age of social distancing and isolation, connectivity and collegiality are even more important. Reach out to your workmates on occasion to catch up, have a laugh and destress. And make to check in regularly with your friends and family — especially those who are isolated due to the pandemic.
Sitting for hours without proper movement can take a toll on our bodies, particularly if our at-home workstation lacks proper ergonomics. Consider investing in a dedicated standing desk or supportive office chair to prevent back pain or discomfort, eye strain, and even visits to chiropractors. If saving money is key, there are lots of low-cost alternatives available — some go so far as to use a sturdy ironing board in place of a desk.
It’s hard to transition directly from the intensity of your work into a state of relaxation. You can make the transition out of your workday easier by doing something fun, like trying a new recipe. Bonus: when you’re done, supper’s ready. If cooking isn’t your thing, indulge in a hobby like puzzles or crafting. Similar to listening to a podcast on your commute, just take a few minutes to enjoy a favourite pastime and then get on with the rest of your evening.
Do you miss having a chance to wind down and set aside work as you traveled closer to home? You could try mimicking your commute by taking a brief walk around the block each morning and another in the evening. In doing so, you can you set your intentions at the start of the workday and clear your mind at the end. Go even further by substituting your daily commute with self-care activities — they’re sure to benefit your overall physical and mental wellbeing.
At the end of the workday, disconnect and step away from your desk. By turning off your computer or cellphone notifications, you’re separating your work hours from your free time. You’ll be less tempted to respond to work emails, or get a head start on your next work project, in the evening. Use this time instead to decompress, recharge your batteries, and be ready to tackle that project the next day.
During the workday, make sure the people in your household recognize your “office” so you can create healthy boundaries. Be open and honest with your family members about the important projects you’re working on — and limit distractions. Set realistic goals for what you can achieve in a workday.
Establishing a routine can help us regain a sense of control over our lives. Be sure to allow some flexibility and create a schedule that best works for your situation. However, accept that not everything is going to go according to plan, particularly if you’re looking after young children, pets, or have elderly parents in your care. Things are bound to happen to disrupt your work so be kind to yourself.
Experiment with a few of these ideas until you find a new ritual that works for you. The key is to be intentional about the transition — you can be out for a run and still thinking about an email you have to send, or you can be brewing a cup of tea and moving on with your day. Concentrate on shifting your focus. Soon you’ll find yourself more mentally present in both areas of your life.
If you’re overwhelmed by your workload, let your boss know and find a solution together. Proactive communication is essential anytime, but particularly when we’re working remotely. If you’re still struggling to cope and emotions are interfering with your everyday activities, seek expert help.
Most group health benefit plans provide coverage for mental health services, such as counselling through an Employee Assistance Program. Check with your manager or HR representative to see what support is available to you to help deal with anxiety, stress, or depression. While the promise of a COVID vaccine gives us hope for an eventual return to work, most of us will continue to work at home for months to come, simultaneously juggling multiple roles as employees, child, or elder caregivers. That’s why it’s never been more important to find ways to balance home and work — during the pandemic and beyond.