Working from home provides numerous benefits. But work life balance is still a concern of many remote professionals. It doesn’t come naturally to some; others may struggle to strike the balance between their personal and professional lives.
But don’t stress.
Learning about work life balance and discovering how to do it on your own terms is all part of the battle. Not only can you develop a comfortable work life balance, but you can also navigate the murky waters of work life integration. Together, this holistic approach to remote work can ultimately lead you to a harmonious equilibrium that reduces stress and boosts productivity.
What Is Work Life Balance?
Work life balance entails separating career and home life so that you can complete your professional tasks and still have plenty of time for family, friends, and other activities outside of work.
Examples of Work Life Balance
For example, successful work life balance may consist of an employee working in a home office with the door shut while a caregiver watches the kids during dedicated work hours. This scenario resembles a typical day at the office, except the employee is physically located at home.
When it’s time to clock out, the employee comes out of their makeshift cubicle and spends the rest of the evening with family. Whenever older kids have days off school, the employee may continue as usual or adjust the work schedule to accommodate the family’s needs. In this case, both work and family are given their fair share of attention so that there is a balance between the two.
Another example may include an employee designated chunks of time for both work and home tasks throughout the day. This not only makes tasks more manageable, but it ensures everything gets done and receives equal attention. So, the employee may get the kids off to school before sitting down in the home office for three or four hours. Lunchtime may involve laundry or checking off a few personal to-do items. Finally, they may conduct another two or three hours of work before picking up the kids from school and prepping dinner.
The importance of shutting down for the day is integral to this balance. But small tasks such as taking an evening call while dinner cooks is a fair balance. In addition, remote workers may have to adjust accordingly based on family or professional needs. The key in this scenario is to know when to turn off the computer and turn attention to self-care or family time.
Tips to Improve Work Life Balance
Remember that work life balance is a dynamic, evolving idea. In addition, methods that work for someone else may not be ideal for you. Therefore, you’ll need to monitor and tweak these tips to improve work life balance as you go. Balance in any aspect of life isn’t steadfast; treat this as such.
Prioritize Your Time
Prioritization is a pivotal aspect of work life balance. Without it, you’re floundering to devise schedules and separate your time between work and play. Therefore, you should come up with some type of schedule to suit your needs.
This schedule can follow one, two, or both schools of thought. One idea is to create a to-do list for daily and weekly goals. At the beginning of the week, draft your weekly to-do list. And each evening, put together a daily to-do list. Follow these religiously to get the most out of your day.
To some degree, you may also want a looser monthly schedule. This should outline your overall goals for the month, but provide room for improvisation and revision. Then, combine these schedules into a free-flowing rubric to create work life balance.
Plan Personal Time
As the term work life balance implies, personal time is a crucial component to making the idea work for you. Therefore, the inclusion of personal time is tantamount to success. When personal or family issues arise, your first instinct may be to pour on more work instead of tackling the problem head-on. But this is counterproductive. Always budget more personal time than you perceive necessary. This can help you walk away from work without feeling guilty for taking a break.
Create a Home Office Sanctuary
The home office is more than just a place to get work done. It’s a mix of aesthetics, relaxing decor, and accessories to complete your tasks in solace and comfort. So you shouldn’t skimp on the accouterments if possible.
Creating a home office sanctuary doesn’t have to break the bank. Plus, it’s a necessary part of work life balance. With a streamlined office setup, you can knock items off your to-do list while also indulging your personal life.
For example, you can roll a yoga mat neatly into the corner and take it out for some light exercise when you’re reading work emails. And don’t forget the other essentials of a great home office:
- Ergonomic chair
- Durable, reliable computer
- Strong internet connection
- A desk that offers comfort and serves as a focal point of decor
- Any device that makes your job easier, such as a webcam, printer, upgraded computer, land-line phone
Work life balance is an ongoing plan of action. As a result, you need to be realistic about what you can accomplish in an hour, day, week, or month. Don’t overextend or overexert yourself; this only leads to stress. Instead, treat each day as a learning experience. Figure out what works, weed out what doesn’t, and fine-tune the process to maximize your results, success, and happiness.
A break may seem like a counterintuitive idea as a worker. But without breaks, your overall productivity and performance can suffer. Therefore, you should take regular breaks. Employing a proven method called the Pomodoro Technique can help with this aspect if you don’t know where to start. Not only does it stress regular breaks, but it also helps with time management, organization, and a bevy of other aspects coveted by the quintessential remote worker.
There’s Nothing Wrong With a Holiday
Taking a holiday, a vacation, or a long weekend shouldn’t cause undue stress. Without these breaks from your work at home job, you can start to suffer from stress—and more realistically—burnout. So plan some trips into your monthly or quarterly calendar. You deserve it.
What Is Work Life Integration?
Work life integration takes work from home to new heights where work and life aren’t separate entities that require equal weight. Instead, employees incorporate their professional experiences into their personal lives on a daily basis.
Think of work life integration as performing your job while living your normal life. It’s a unified, blended, harmonious work life arrangement that doesn’t necessarily require chunking time, giving equal attention to any individual facet, or evaluating your performance and satisfaction with work and life separately.
Examples of Work Life Integration
For example, an online content writer may take the family on vacation and use first-hand experiences to craft new material for articles, social media posts, and marketing copy. Similarly, an information technology consultant might demo new cloud-based software for personal use and end up recommending the services to clients.
Other examples may include:
- Starting the workday whenever you want
- Responding to emails in a waiting room or lobby
- Performing light yoga while watching a training video
- Feeding the dog while discussing plans with a manager
- Completing work tasks at happy hour instead of a coffee shop
- Taking annual workcations (working regular hours while traveling)
Yet even with work life integration, balance is vital. The difference is that you don’t have to apply equal weight to every aspect of your day. Plus, you can adapt your workday to fit goals, activities, or other events in your family or social life. In short, work life integration promotes the utmost flexibility, affording opportunities to implement the ideas of autonomy and free rein as allowed by your employer.
How to Implement the Principles Work Life Integration
Because of the less structured nature of work life integration compared to work life balance, implementing its principles can feel like a high-wire act. If you’re struggling to implement work life integration, you aren’t alone. But there’s somewhat of a method to the madness.
Interestingly, implementing the principles of work life integration are strikingly similar to ones outlined as suggestions for work life balance. So as much as a list would work here, it’s also repetitive.
The idea of how to implement work life integration lies in the ability to multitask and divvy up time to specific tasks throughout the day. But perhaps the most useful bit of advice is to change your mindset. Perfect balance in any facet of life is difficult or unachievable to some degree.
Work and personal life are normal aspects of a person’s overall existence; one shouldn’t be stressed one way or the other. Yet it’s the ability to know what to do in a certain situation (personal vs. work) that will lead you on the path to greatness. Practice makes perfect, but don’t let minor setbacks bring you down. It’s a constant work in process.
How Employers and Managers Can Create a Balanced Remote Team Culture
As an employer or manager of remote employees, creating a culture of work life balance or integration may seem like meddling. You may assume that most of the responsibility falls on your team members. However, employers and managers have a significant influence on how remote professionals create and sustain their balance between work and home life. As such, forging a balanced remote team culture can reduce stress, set expectations, improve employee morale, and building a winning team.
Discuss Work Life Balance and Work Life Integration
During virtual onboarding, training, or team meetings, talk about the importance of balancing personal and professional tasks and creating boundaries at home. Encourage workers to share their stories, tips, and lessons learned so that all may benefit. Foster a culture of open communication where people feel comfortable discussing challenges and helping each other alleviate any work at home woes.
Give Staff Enough Space
To achieve work life balance or integration, your team members must establish clear boundaries for themselves. As an employer or manager, you can help your staff set limits by giving them space to structure their days as needed. But you don’t need to know what they’re doing every second of the workday, nor do you need to micromanage.
However, some managers are fearful that such an arrangement will detract from focus or productivity. Yet this notion is far from the truth. Studies, such as Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, have found that employees are more productive with flexible schedules, which subsequently leads to increased job satisfaction and improvements in employee retention.
Be a Model of Work Life Balance or Integration
Role models play an integral role in work life balance and integration. Because employees often follow the lead managers and supervisors, you can develop a culture that values work life balance and integration by practicing yourself. The more you demonstrate your own commitment, the more your team will follow suit.
How important is work life balance in your job search? What would you do with your newfound flexibility? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!
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