￼Guide to a better work-life balance while working from home
Work from home became the new normal for millions of workers across the globe when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Many thought that spending all of their time at home would help them finally be able to find that work-life balance. However, as the weeks rolled into months and work hours bled into personal time, many now feel that work-life balance is a myth.
Understanding what is work-life balance?
There is no single definition or common consensus on what is work-life balance. However, it can be defined as the amount of time spent in doing a job versus the amount of time spent on personal and social pursuits that bring joy. Or in broader terms, it is the satisfaction achieved with one’s entire life – both professional and personal.
It is interesting to note that the term “work-life balance” was first used in 1986 during the Women’s Liberation Movement in the UK. However, the idea of having a work-life balance dates back to the 1800s when manufacturing laws of the time had restricted working hours for workers, especially women and children. Even in India, as per the Factories Act 1948, every adult (18 years and above) cannot work for more than 48 hours in a week and not more than 9 hours a day. According to Section 51 of the Act, the spread over cannot exceed 10-1/2 hours. As one can see the importance of work-life balance was accepted as a necessary incentive for workers, even before the term became popular.
Has work from home affected work-life balance?
With the onset of the pandemic, people are now working from their homes. This has blurred the lines between work time and home time. Technology has made it possible for everyone to stay connected at all times. Fear of losing one’s job during the pandemic has also spurred employees to work longer hours often at the cost of sacrificing time with loved ones. This never-ending workday is now leading to stress, anxiety, and burnout.
Work-life balance for women has never been an easy act. With the pandemic, things seem to have become even more challenging. Online school means children are at home at all times, giving no respite to the parents, especially mothers. In some cases, where helps/maids are not being allowed in societies, it’s the women who have been burdened with the additional house chores. All these additional responsibilities combined with a full-time job has caused many women to have mental breakdowns and issues like depression, guilt and a sense of failure for not being able to do it all.
A recent research paper that studied the impact of work from home during the pandemic on physical and mental health found that out of the 988 respondents, 64.8% reported new physical health issues and approximately 73.6% reported new mental health issues arising since Work from Home. They also reported having more workload, increased work hours and difficulty in adjusting work life with home needs.
How to maintain a work-life balance?
Before we decide on how to achieve work-life balance, it’s important to know that work-life balance will be different for different people and there is no one size fits all approach to it. So, let’s first understand what work-life balance is not:
Work-Life Balance is not an equal balance. It’s unrealistic to assume that you will spend exactly 50% of your time working and the rest 50% of your time doing personal things.
Your personal work-life balance can differ over time. As a single person, you may be able to work more without it affecting your personal time, but as a married person and later as a parent that ratio will change.
Everyone’s work-life balance differs. For someone who is highly motivated and passionate about the job, working long hours may not have a negative impact on their mental health. On the other hand, for someone who prioritizes home and family overwork, long hours can be determinantal even if they love their job.
So, how do we decide what is the ideal work-life balance? Maybe the following work-life balance questionnaire can help you come up with your own work-life balance ratio.
· Do you check your work emails and messages first thing in the morning?
· Are you eating your meals while working simultaneously?
· Are you unable to find time for exercise or hobbies?
· Are your family members unhappy about the amount of time you spend on work calls?
· Are you mentally and physically exhausted all the time?
If your answer has been “yes” to most of the questions, then it’s time to strike the right balance between your work life and home life.
Helpful tips to achieve work-life balance when working from home
Make a schedule and adhere to it – Just like how you had defined in-time and out-time when you worked from an office, create a set work time for yourself. Log in at work at the same time every day and log out of work at the same time. Once in a while when the workload is much you could stretch your work time limit, but try not to go beyond an hour or two.
Use technology to your advantage – Use every kind of communication tool at your disposal to make work life easier for you. You can schedule your Google Calendar to let people know what your working hours are so that you can automatically refuse events that take place outside your work hours. You can choose to not receive notifications on your phone before and after your work hours. Since everyone is trying to achieve work-life balance, your colleagues will try to be more respectful about your personal time.
Plan your break times – Just because you are working from home, doesn’t mean you have to work non-stop. Taking a break will help you recharge yourself and that will lead to better productivity at work. You can use your break time to run errands, catch up with your family, have your lunch or do some light household chores. The point is, your break should make you feel refreshed and not tired.
Schedule your before and after work hours – Scheduling your work hours isn’t enough. You need to plan your non-working hours as well. Wake up every day at around the same time and have your breakfast. Spend at least 30 minutes with yourself or with your family. If you can fit in an hour for exercise then that’s great or you can work out after office hours. Don’t let dinner be the only downtime you have after work. Make enough time to read a book, watch your favorite show or spend quality time with your loved one.
Have a dedicated workspace – If your workspace is right in the centre of the living room, chances are you will be constantly disturbed by the household activities around you. This will only make work more stressful and may also lead you to work overtime. If you don’t have a spare room for a home office then try to clear a small corner in your bedroom which can be used as office space. Keep the space clutter-free and inform your children not to disturb you when you are in your office space unless it’s an emergency. Once your work hours are over, close your laptop and the lights and step away from the office space. Make it a habit to use your office space only for work.
In closing, achieving work-life balance can be tough, but not impossible!
Raja. S., Stein.S. (2014, June) Work–Life Balance: History, Costs, and Budgeting for Balance.
(2021, March) No work-life balance: Pandemic burdens women more than men with personal & professional responsibilities
Xiao. Y., Becerik-Gerber.B., Lucas.G., Roll.S. (2020, Nov) Impacts of Working From Home During COVID-19 Pandemic on Physical and Mental Well-Being of Office Workstation Users.
Meenakshi.S., Subrahmanyam C. V., Ravichandran. K. (2013, Dec) “The Importance of Work-Life-Balance”. IOSR Journal of Business and Management (IOSR-JBM
Barron. S. (2020, March) 9 Tips for Working from Home That Can Help with Work-Life Balance.
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