The office will never be the same. Right now, your desk might be at the dining table and you might be wearing sweatpants and a smart blouse as you talk to colleagues over a Zoom call.
With many companies having adopted a remote hybrid working model, it’s anyone’s guess whether we’ll ever return to office environments the way they once were. And, while working from home has its benefits – like less time and money spent on commuting – many remote workers are struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
When there is no break from the culture of non-stop achievement, it can be exhausting. “If the pace never seems to let up, and you don’t have time for a calmer, happier you at home, it starts feeling as if you’re conducting life at breakneck speed,” says Aisha Pandor, CEO of the home cleaning services company SweepSouth. As a working mom of three, Aisha has practical advice for career women working from home on attaining a calmer work-life balance.
In an office environment, there are trays and filing systems galore. At home, don’t allow your desk to become cluttered with bits of paper. Arrange paperwork in a three-tier system: an in-pile for current matters, a folder for ongoing projects and a large box file for longer-term, but important documents you may need to reference.
Keep set working hours
Have you ever noticed how productive you are in the countdown days to a holiday? Having less time to do something can have the result of making you more efficient. Stick to strict ‘office’ hours and set yourself mini-deadlines throughout the day to make sure you stay on track.
Get it out of your head, make notes
At the start of every day, write down what needs to be done so that you can clear your mind, knowing important matters have been listed. Cross off the things you’ve completed successfully but don’t punish yourself for tasks undone. The sky isn’t going to cave in because they haven’t all been ticked off.
Edit meetings and commitments
Constantly be on the lookout for which meetings can be cut from your schedule, advises Aisha. Similarly, in your home life, do an audit of all the commitments you’ve taken on, like heading up your book club as well as being on the school’s PTA. Identify which of these makes you feel really fulfilled, then do a commitment cull so that you can enjoy life without being too tired to do so.
Something needs to give
“It’s easy to let all the responsibilities of the house become part of your workday. Suddenly the dishes, hanging out the washing and making lunch is added to your pile of work commitments. Take time to calmly look at everything on your To Do list and say, I can’t do it all,” says Aisha.
Prepare ahead as much as you can to avoid work commitments colliding with home responsibilities. For example, make children’s lunches over the weekend and freeze them, and delegate responsibilities to others.
Resist the temptation to use every spare minute you have during the day to hang up washing, sweep the floors, or tidy the house. There is only so much time in the day, and you need some of that to rest, so now is the time to hire a domestic worker to help clean the house, even if it is just once a week.
Change gears to a calmer pace
Make a conscious effort to change down a gear to a calmer pace a few times during a workday. If you are breaking for lunch, say the words, “I’m going to have a calm 30 minutes for lunch now.” The words we speak are powerful, and by speaking your intention out loud, you reinforce it.
Get up from your workspace
Your concentration wanes if you work for long stretches of time, so take regular breaks throughout the day to boost your productivity. Set a timer to remind you to get up every two hours and take a short walk or do stretches, advises Dr Helen Okoye, medical expert and spokesperson for the World Thrombosis Day (WTD) campaign.
“When you spend too much time sitting, your blood flow slows down, which can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), where clots form in the legs. If a part of the blood clot breaks off it can travel to the lungs, forming a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be fatal,” she says. While many people are aware that blood clotting can result from prolonged sitting during flights, it may come as a surprise to learn that people who have sat for many hours working at a computer have also developed DVTs.
“Any prolonged inactivity can put you at risk of a dangerous blood clot,” says Dr Okoye. “Just getting up and moving around to get your circulation going again is a simple, effective way to reduce that risk.” In fact, incorporate as much movement into your daily routine as possible. Dance while you’re cooking, folding the washing, and brushing your teeth – every bit of activity helps.
And finally, yes, the economy is tough, the world is an uncertain place and having kids at home all the time is driving you mad, but for a calmer, more balanced approach to it all, remember that the only thing you can control is yourself.