Maintaining a healthy work life balance has always been a tricky challenge for most employees. This is a greater challenge as working spaces have been confined to our living rooms. Companies worldwide have allowed employees to work from home. Partial work from home or work from anywhere will continue in the post Covid-19 era. How can companies and management help employees manage work life balance as they continue to work remotely?
What is impacting work life balance while working from home?
Some may argue that employees are able to spend more time with family. This was not the case in the pre Covid-19 era. Employees in large metropolitan cities and urban areas spent more than 2 to 3 hours on their daily commute. Hence, work from home should have helped them improve the work life balance.
On the contrary, the time being spent at home has created more challenges for employees.
- Parents, spouses and kids unknowingly create frequent interruptions while working. They are not to blame. As working parents are physically present at home, they are considered to be within reach for help
- Not all employees have adequate home infrastructure for uninterrupted work. They may not have a separate room or space for work
- They are dealing with stress due to multiple factors – stress of the pandemic, job uncertainties, kids attending online classes, daily household chores to name a few
- Lack of a physical support system for work issues. While working from office, they had access to a mentor or a trusted colleague to discuss issues. Not just work related issues, bur personal issues as well like relationship queries. This support system has been disrupted
How to help employees cope with the work from home stress?
The biggest factor for stress during work from home is the constant connect and engagement with work. The 9 to 5 work schedule has expanded to fill up the entire day. Employers and clients expect calls to be answered instantly and any time of the day. There is an unstated need for instant replies to emails and texts.
Employees are finding it difficult to switch off from work.
The office work is no longer being carried into their homes. Employees are now constantly living with work and work related stress in their living rooms, dining rooms and bed rooms.
What is the solution?
Companies need to help employees switch off from work. There needs to be a definite end time to the daily work schedule. I will share an easy and effective method to mentally switch off from work. This is an effective method to avoid work related stress and manage work life balance.
Guide your team to develop a daily routine to end their work. It could be a simple 5 minutes to 10 minutes long daily activity. The key here is to trick the stressed mind. A repetitive daily end of work routine will trick the mind into believing that the day’s work is over. The effect will be similar to when employees would take the elevator down from office and complete their daily commute back home. Instead, this will be more a mental commute to home.
Some suggestions for a daily end of work routine:
My personal end of work routine to mentally switch off from work is the packing up of my office appliances and stuff. I have an elaborate 5 minute process of packing everything I have used for work – my laptop, the laptop charger, the 2 notebooks I use for notes, pens, sticky post-its pad, coffee mug, smartphone charger and the book I would have read during break from work. The process of packing up each and every item is exactly similar each day and painfully slow. As I begin with my daily routine, my mind starts the mental commute away from work. Over a period of a few days, I have been able to train my mind how to switch off from work.
This one single daily routine will work wonders. However, this could be different for every person.
Here are three suggestions I can think of for a better work life balance during the lockdown:
- A daily descriptive summary of the day’s work. This can have multiple benefits. It lets the employee self-assess the day’s productivity. This could also work as a plan for the next day. Encourage employees to treat this as a journal. They should include their thoughts and any thing they want to express
- Suggest them a book to read. Ask them to read 15 to 20 pages at the end of work everyday
- A daily team video conference of up to 5 or 6 people. Do not discuss work during this team call. Let everyone log in to the call and share their thoughts, may be sing a song, celebrate a team or individual achievement or occasion
The daily switching off from work routine is the single most effective trick to help your employees manage work life balance during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Please share any other suggestions you may have. Feel free to comment in the comments sections below. You may want to connect with me on Twitter for an open discussion.
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