Achieving a work-life balance while working from home, can get really tricky at times. While working from home offers many benefits if not managed well can very easily let you lose your work-life balance and make you overwhelmed.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I had no option but to work from home with a 7-month baby. While I was learning to be a mother, I had to deal with working from home too.
Now it’s nearly 2 years and I am still working from home, so I think I am quite qualified to share with you tips for better work-life balance while working from home or to work from home with a baby.
So let’s get started with the tips.
How to master working from home
Tip 1: Use tools to indicate your availability
One of the challenges of working from home is letting people know you are there working and available for work discussion. So always use tools like Google hangout or Microsoft teams as a means to communicate your availability, to quickly chat rather than send mail. And to let your boss know you are working and not taking a nap at home.
I also find it a good way to change the status of these tools to busy when you are in a meeting to avoid disturbance.
Lastly, it is good to also let people know you are off work.
A simple tool, but highly effective.
Tip 2: Plan for the next day in advance
At the end of each workday, make a To-Do list for your next day and focus on the important, high rewarding tasks. This way when you start your work the next day you will be able to get to work directly and not wander around thinking where to start.
This also helps to instantly get you in work mode, even if working from home, and plan your day around kids.
To make a good To-Do list read 10 Things You Must Do To Be Successful At Work.
Tip 3: Don’t confuse breaks with errands
Take a few minute breaks from your work when you switch from one task to another to avoid burnout. However, don’t use it to run errands, in that case, it does not serve the purpose of giving you a break and you may end up feeling exhausted and a frustrating feeling of working all the time. I used to use the breaks to do small house errands like putting round for laundry, changing a diaper, etc. and while doing that I use to feel I am being productive by using the break time for some work but after some time I started to feel I am just working endlessly and frustrated for not getting any rest.
So use the break time to stretch, drink some water, look around the window or check social media (but just for a few mins).
I highly recommend the Pomodoro technique where you work for 45 min and then take a 10 min break.
Tip 4: Dress for work
When you work from home it is very convenient to be in a comfy night dress all day, enjoy the liberty to live in messy hair. But if you dress for work it just brings a change in mood, energy, attitude, makes you feel different, and improve your productivity.
You need not dress in formal the way you do when working from the office but just getting out of your nightdress to a comfortable dress for home is also sufficient to serve the purpose.
Tip 5: Set boundaries
Setting boundaries at both work and home is very important. Let the people at work know that you will be available only till the working hour and later you have personal commitments. Similarly, let your family know although you are at home you are expected to deliver the same work as it is when you work at the office and they should not expect you to be available during working hours or make phone calls for unessential things during work hours.
Tip 6: Build a work routine
When we work at the office there are certain routines that we follow intentionally or unintentionally. It can be starting to reply to emails or discuss with team tasks for the day. These activities set you rolling into work.
Similarly, when working from home you need to build a work routine, it can be the same as you had at office routine or something specific. Building a routine at work help you flow easily into work and reduces stress.
Tip 7: Have a dedicated workspace
Find a dedicated workspace, it need not be a beautiful home office. But a space just for work makes it easier for you to focus on work and be productive.
You may find it tempting to lay on the couch or work cozy in the bed but it hampers your productivity and blur the line of work and life.
When finding a workspace try to make it convenient for you, ensure it has a charge point nearby and away from common distractions like TV, etc.
You need not stick to the conventional study room, if you do not have enough space you can use a portable table and sit on the floor.
I for a long time worked on my dining table, in spite of having a study as it was convenient for me to work and still keep eye on my kid, crawling across the living room.
Find something that suits you.
Tip 8: Follow your work from office routine
When you work from the office you have quite an established routine you wake up at a particular time and ensure to leave for work at a fixed time considering your commute time too. But when we work from home we feel tempted to get some extra sleep, skip preparing meals in the morning hoping to sneak a few minutes during the day to make it.
All these eventually compound and set you off your work schedule, making work from home overwhelming.
But if you stick to your work from office schedule and routine you will not only have work hours only for work but the few extra minutes that you get by working from home will feel rewarding.
Tip 9: Stick to your timings
Set a strict working hour exactly the way you have when you work from the office or what is defined by your organization. Make sure you are always punctual at work in the morning and also stop working at a defined time every day. When you start the work on time you don’t need to stay late out of guilt of starting late in the morning.
Strict time in and time out help you separate work and personal life. Also, it sends a clear message to all the colleagues to not expect you after work hour, as when working from hope it is very easy for people to expect more work from you.
Tip 10: Plan ahead for the meetings
If your job involves meeting with customers or other team members, plan well before the meeting the place from where you will be attending it to avoid end-minute chaos and disturbance during the meeting. This is very important when you are working with kids.
I use to play around with my baby’s nap time to ensure she is sleeping when I have meetings. At times when it is not possible, I would reserve her favorite toy or snack for the meeting time to keep her occupied.
Tip 11: Find transition triggers
There are certain things that when you do instantly set you in motion for a series of actions often called routine. Such after waking up you brush your teeth, bathe, breakfast, etc, You need to find triggers that help you transition from work to personal time and vice versa.
This transition is easier when we work outside the home. Some simple triggers to help you transition to work can sitting at a dedicated workplace, making a To-Do- list, planning your day, or going through the plan in case you made it the previous day.
Some simple triggers to help you transition to personal life can be having some tea after work, taking bath, creating a calm ambiance at home.
For most of us transitioning from work to personal life is difficult, I have written 5 step system to help you relax and unwind after a busy day you should use if you find it difficult to relax and after work.
Tip 12: Do meal planning
When working from home you tend to think to get some time between work to cook but that either does not happen or you get overwhelmed managing to get it done. So it is highly advisable to do meal planning at weekend to ensure healthy food can be enjoyed every day.
Tip 13: Don’t skip lunch
When working from home we don’t have a set time for lunch or company to eat, making us skip lunch. Most time at work we eat lunch at restaurants or get take out which becomes unlikely when we work from home and especially under restrictions take-out is not an option. Also, at times while WFH we munch snacks and skip meals.
Skipping lunch affects our energy level and ultimately productivity. Over time it can affect your health too. So make sure to don’t skip meals, it is also a good break from work.
Tip 14: Plan fun after work
Make plans not just for work but also for some fun activity. It reduces the stress of work throughout the day. I find it quite motivating to look forward to a fun evening to get through a difficult workday. It is also a great way to spend quality time with family and ensure a work-life balance when working from home.
P.S For ways to spend quality time with your partner and kids, read Secrets To Spending Time With Your Partner When Busy and Secrets to spend quality time with your kids in a busy life.
Tip 15: Don’t be embarrassed about your environment
You may not have a perfect work environment at home there may be dog barking, kids crying, siblings fighting, or poor internet connection. Don’t stress about it.
When I would be at a work call and my kid would cry I use to feel so embarrassed and apologetic about it and lose my mind. After some time I realized there is no reason to fuss about it, I am trying to do the best I can. Rather than feeling embarrassed, I should be proud of managing work from home along with taking care of a 7-month baby.
This shift in attitude makes a whole lot of difference.
Tip 16: Extend more grace
When you work from home you may not be able to see or understand the struggles others are facing. Maybe they are not able to cope with the work from home mode, maybe they have other issues. So, just put a little effort to extend kindness and grace towards others. And don’t forget to be kind and gentle towards yourself. Give yourself some credit for the efforts and liberty to not be perfect.
Tip 17: Keep things organized
Keep all your work essentials well organized to avoid wasting time to search for things. When working from home you can be all over the place with your laptops, notebooks, and other things. Make sure to assign a dedicated place for your work utilities and keep them well organized at the end of the day.
Tip 18: Keep stationary handy
Keep all your work-related stationeries together in one place. The last thing that you want is to search for pens all around the house to take notes during a meeting.
When it comes to writing I am not a fan of apps and digital tools but like to write with pen old style (.. with different colors too at times ?) I cannot work well if I do not have all my stationery with me. Let me know in the comments if you are like me.
Tip 19: Learn to prioritize
Always prioritize your work not just at the office but at home too. With so many things to juggle while working from home, it is really required to prioritize and work accordingly otherwise you may get carried away with the motion of the day and miss important work.To know more about work prioritization read How to prioritize work tasks.
Tip 20: Don’t get affected by other’s judgment
People at work may think you are not working at home but just having a sweet time. Relatives may think you just don’t think about family and work is always your priority. Neighbors may think you are not a good mom to let your kid watch TV the whole day. Just don’t give a damn. Let others think whatever they want, try to do your best and leave the rest you are not here to please others.
If you still find it difficult put the song “Shake it off” ?
Tip 21: Find your most efficient time
Everyone has a unique life and the way they work. It is a good approach to find the most efficient time to increase your productivity. It can be early in the morning or later in the evening. If you are struggling to work effectively find the most effective hour and try to do the most important work at that time.
While working from home my kid’s nap time are my golden hours, I could work uninterrupted and use to plan high focus major tasks for that time. Sometimes if required I would work the early morning before she woke up. So find what works for you and set your routine around it.
Time box those effective hour and boost your productivity.
P.S. You can read Timeboxing at work: An effective way to get the most done.
So these are the 21 Tips to get a work-life balance while working from home. I have learned these over the period of 2 years while working from home along with an infant turned now to a toddler. These have made working from the homeless overwhelming for me and helped me make a better work-life balance.
Hope you find it helpful. I am very positive they will give you a better work-life balance while working from home.
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