At some point in the last two years you worked from home. Not just for one afternoon or after traditional business hours to hammer out details of a big project. You spent weeks, maybe even months, working from home full-time while lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions shuttered non-essential offices.
We held meetings online. We learned how to use collaborative communication tools. We put our broadband connection through its paces. We were grateful for cloud-based platforms that allowed us to access our work tools and our files no matter where we were.
For many corporate employees, the return to the office isn’t a return to business as usual. For some, work at home was productive and easy enough that we’ve continued to put our home office to good use full-time. Others have adopted a hybrid schedule that includes both in-office and work-at-home hours during the week. Some have returned to their previous full time, on-site hours but haven’t given back the home office space for one reason or another.
While there’s clear benefits to this sort of flexibility, there are also potential drawbacks. Those lines that define work-life balance may blur more easily when your workspace is integrated with your home turf. If your daily commute involves pulling on your slippers and moving from one room in your home to another, or when you can easily access all things work-related with a simple tap of an app on your phone, it can be difficult to turn off work and focus on nurturing the personal side of your life.
Create a Routine
When you commuted to the office, whether that was a short jaunt into town or a hour drive, the move from office to home was part of a routine that provided a line of demarcation between work life and home life. When your desk is down the hall from your bedroom, that line gets a little blurrier. Creating a new routine can help you define the space the different facets of your life occupies in each day.
Don’t ease into work straight from bed or breakfast. Take the dog for a walk. Curl up with a cup of coffee and catch up on an episode of your favorite show. Read a chapter or two of a book. Call a mentor or friend and spend time talking about anything but the job. Take an actual lunch break. Use the time to eat at a space that’s not your desk. At the end of the day, turn off the laptop and use your “would have been commuting” time to do tasks you enjoy.
Turn Off Notifications
It’s hard to ignore your voicemail, text, and emails when the apps on your phone are blurting out alerts and notifications. Those messages may not need your attention right now, but the highlighted message popping up on your screen can sure make it feel urgent. Turn off your alerts outside of business hours. Remember, just because technology provides you the convenience of working on your smartphone doesn’t mean you need to do so 24/7. If you were in the office full-time and didn’t have those apps, those ‘urgent’ calls would simply wait until you were back at your desk. Having ready access to the tech today doesn’t change that. It can wait. Really.
Raise a hand if you have attended a Zoom meeting while muted with your camera not exactly focused fully on you so you could simultaneously work on something else – that may or may not have been related to the task at hand. Be honest now. Sure, we’ve all sat in meetings that could have just as easily been a quick email exchange or that started out productive before devolving into something less productive. Video calls made it easy to “physically” attend while mentally focused on something we deemed more productive. We patted ourselves on the back for multi-tasking. Yet the truth is neither our task nor the meeting had enough of our attention to make either productive. We made mistakes. We missed key info.
Tech can certainly help us work more efficiently but cutting corners isn’t always efficient. Don’t give in to the temptation to turn the camera off, mute yourself and cook dinner while your team leader shares project updates with your department. Be present. Be focused on a single task.