Work Life Balance and Remote WorkingPosted in : HR Updates on 27 May 2020
We need to recognise work-life balance, while working from home at this time is more of a blending of both aspects of our life - where our personal and professional lives have integrated in a way that many of us would not have hoped or planned for. It will look different for each of us and each day can be different, contrasting drastically depending on personal circumstances.
Even if working from home has been part of your working pattern before now, doing it alongside a spouse or with children around is sure to present a new set of challenges. Initially a situation that was forced upon us in March looks set to continue for many of us; last week the CIPD published a report stating that almost half of UK workers (45%) expect to work more flexibly after lockdown restrictions are lifted. 33% of those surveyed expect to work from home 3 days a week, whilst PWC has found that in Ireland 60% of companies are exploring options which will make remote working a permanent option.
While this may be welcomed by some it is striking to note that a recent poll by Institute for Employment Studies (IES, April 2020) , found 50 per cent of respondents were not happy with their current work-life balance, with 48 per cent putting in longer and more irregular hours than they would under normal circumstances.
This suggests it takes certain skills to manage work from home and try to achieve ‘work-life balance’. Here are some key learnings to help become more disciplined and productive in the current situation:
Be honest and be realistic. Communicate openly with your colleagues and peers about what can be achieved - explain your own unique circumstances. If homeschooling, childcare and providing support to relatives is part of your remit, be realistic about what you can commit to, agree to it and continue to evaluate your personal, professional and employer’s needs which will evolve.
On a daily basis, a to-do list is critical; it helps clear the mind and prioritise what needs to be accomplished first.
Start each day with clear priorities- personal and professional. Tackle the most important things first- those that take the most focus and effort. Procrastination kicks in if you start with the smaller tasks and suddenly the pressure has mounted.
Keep in regular communication with colleagues and clients to ensure agreed timelines for projects and plans remain and do not require you to reprioritise accordingly. Be confident to ask for support or help when you need it – others may have more capacity and less demands that you do.
Set aside specific times for emails and calls- try to predict the best time to make and take calls when you can be guaranteed you won’t be interrupted.
All contact and conversation doesn’t have to be work related and it is important to try to maintain the sense of ‘community’ from the typical office environment. Socialising after work has taken on a whole new meaning with Zoom quizzes, leaving parties and team nights out all moving to be done remotely. Keep checking in with others- each of us are coping with change in our own way.
Setting deadlines helps develop productivity. Even with home schooling, dog walking and household chores all competing for attention it is possible to enhance your productivity and feel more of a sense of accomplishment than you did in the conventional 9am-5.30pm working pattern.
Focus on the prioritised task and try not to be distracted- whether by phone calls, emails or social media. According to a recent Deloitte study, people look at their phones 47 times a day on average. Remove the social media distractions that we are all so guilty of and take us off on many tangents and steal hours from our day that could enable us to be much more productive.
Parkinson’s Law explains, “Work expands as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Try to get into the practice of assessing how much time it should take to finish a task and set a limit. Ideally you will learn how you work most effectively and improve your productivity levels.
Judge your productivity by your results, not the hours you put in – especially right now. When time is uninterrupted it can help heighten productivity and sharpen focus- it is also intense.
Without the distractions of colleagues and conversations in the office environment take time out to decompress and refocus and disconnect when you have finished your working day. Responding to emails and taking calls outside of working hours will make it seem like your workday never ends.
What is important in all of this is that you establish a pattern or a blend that works for you and your loved ones. However, you are dealing with it some days are bound to be much easier than others - recognise what you have achieved today and if that is less than you had se out to do remember tomorrow is a new day.
More on A-Typical Working
- Implementing Proactive Organisational Change in a Fast-Changing World
- Chalimoniuk v Transkol Limited and FN Transport Limited 
- R (On the Application of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Anor 
- What Does Effective Performance Management For Remote Teams Looks Like?
- The Future of Work
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.