We have talked before about the importance of work-life balance in predicting positive outcomes at home and on the job. Of course, national, state, and company policies play a role in how easy it is to balance work and life. Things have become a lot more complicated lately, however. A large number of individuals are now working remotely, without a lot of warning. But, there are things that you can do as a leader to make it more likely that your team will find balance, even virtually. There are also things you can do as an individual to ensure you are more balanced as well. Want to learn more? Read our tips below!
What is work-life balance?
First, it’s important to know how work and life fit together. What are the different ways your work and your life might influence each other? First, the negative side – work and life might conflict. There are a few different ways that might happen. You might not have enough time to do your work, which intrudes on your family time, or vice versa. It’s also possible that your family life or your work life is really stressful. This exacerbates stress you experience in the other role.
Further, you might feel that you have to switch behaviors or attitudes between roles, which can get burdensome. For example, you might have to be very competitive and fierce on the job. But, you might also have to be very nurturing and caring at home. Finally, you might not feel able to talk about your family because you might face judgment from colleagues. This could be because your family is non-traditional (e.g., you are in a same-sex couple). It could also be because your workplace is not family friendly in general.
On the bright side, your work and family can also enrich each other. This might happen when you feel that skills you learn on the job make you a better parent or friend. It can also happen in the opposite direction. You might learn that you are a great leader by coaching your child’s soccer team, for example. You can also experience enrichment when good feelings from one domain cross over into the other. When you have lower perceived conflicts and higher perceived enrichment, you have greater balance.
What happens when you work remotely?
Working remotely can create some issues for work-life balance because your work and your life lack boundaries. However, in US contexts, having the ability to work when and where you want lowers your work-family conflict. So, while it does take some boundary management, working from home does have the opportunity to make a positive impact. This is especially true if you have a lot control over your job and if you are integrating work and life tasks.
During COVID-19, managers and employees were thrust into having to work remotely. Most organizations were just trying to figure out a way to continue to stay afloat. They weren’t really considering work-family concerns. Now that organizations have made this transition, they are starting to think about how to support better working lives. Especially because so many working parents are now also at home with kids who are schooling remotely, boundaries are even harder to maintain. What can be done to ensure that employees stay balanced?
Tips for Remote Work-Life Balance
Brand new research shows that there are a few things that can be done to maintain balance while working remotely through this crisis. First, if you were already experiencing balance, you are likely to maintain it. That means that, if your company prioritizes work-life balance now, you will fare better in the case of another emergency. So, that means you can’t procrastinate on this! You have to get started now if you haven’t already. Second, if you like to integrate your tasks, instead of keeping everything separate, you will do better. Try easing yourself into the idea of mixing work and home tasks, instead of trying to do only work from 9-5 and life after. Or at least recognize if it frustrates you that you can’t just “turn off” work or life in this context. Try to be patient with yourself as you work to improve at blending the two.
Technology is also a huge piece of this equation. If you aren’t familiar with the technology you have to be using, or you feel that the technology is too intrusive, you will have more work-family conflict. This might mean that you have to set aside dedicated time to learn the features of new technologies before jumping in. If you’re a manager, you should train your employees on new technology, to ease their frustration. Also, avoid calling or texting employees after work hours or attempting to micro-manage throughout the day by email. Even though you can’t see employees, you have to trust that they are doing their jobs unless you have evidence to the contrary.
Finally, be kind to each other. We are all going through a hard time. If your coworkers are stretched thin, remember they are trying their best. Being compassionate and asking how you can help, or even just asking how someone is doing, can go a long way.
How are you coping with working remotely during COVID-19? What have you done that has helped your work-life balance? What has your company or manager done to help? We would love to hear from you, as always!