4 Ways to Improve Work/Life Balance While Working from Home

We are now nine months into this pandemic, and many of us have been working exclusively from home during that time. This has forced us to try and do work to the standard required by our employers and customers, while simultaneously dealing with all the other home realities (including working among people who are not co-workers). Many families have carved their homes into multiple dedicated workspaces for very different jobs (and schools), all packed together under one roof.   

With our “offices” in our home, it’s understandably difficult to separate work life from home life.  Multitasking has taken on new dimensions, such as typing out an email while watching over children who are remote learning. While this cross-over creates some conveniences, it is also taxing on the mind and body. A recent study by the online employment platform Monster found that over two thirds of employees are experiencing burnout while working from at home. Causes the study has pointed to are a lack of breaks in the action, less time off, and less time away from technology. 

As the pandemic continues, so does the monotony of working and schooling at home for many families. If we are to sidestep the detrimental health and work effects of burnout, we will have to become more intentional about how we manage our time.

Here are four ideas for improving work/life balance so each day is well-lived.        

Set scheduled breaks using a timer  

It is critical for our bodies and minds to take regular breaks.  There are all sorts of methods on how to best schedule your day. The Pomodoro technique asks you to break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. A different method promoted by Julia Gifford’s team asks us to work 52 minutes before taking a 17-minute break. Still others find a 90-minute focus block to work well for larger projects. The key is to find a method that works for you and stick with it, so you have the right balance of productive work time and breaks throughout the day.    

Leave yourself a note  

Interruptions throughout the day are common, especially if you have young children at home.  Whenever you need to stop a task midway, leave yourself a little reminder of where you ended so you can jump right back into the task without having to backtrack. In the same vein, keeping a to-do list open on your desk can help you keep track of tasks you cannot get to right away.  

Create an end-of-the-workday routine  

It’s important to set a time for when you plan to end your workday. You can even set a reminder or alarm for that time since the familiar office cues of lights turning off and doors closing do not happen at home.  At the pre-designated time, follow through by locking your computer and walking away from the workstation. To help transition you from work mode to home mode, many experts suggest choosing a physical activity that you enjoy doing, such as taking a walk or going for a run. The ritual allows you downtime to process your day and mentally switch gears. And, very importantly, it provides for time away from the computer screen.

Go on vacation (even if it’s just a “staycation”)  

According to research out of a Finnish university, the optimal vacation length is eight days. Since many of us can only plan “Staycations” this winter, that might feel too long. Studies have shown that even two to three days away from the demands of work can significantly improve your sense of well-being. The key is to carefully plan your staycation just like you would a normal vacation. Instead of doing chores around the house, plan activities that bring you joy, rejuvenate your technology-riddled body and mind, and allow you to explore the local community.    

Summing it up  

Burnout is insidious – it creeps up on us over time. In the same way, finding the right rhythm to your day is a process that may take some time to perfect. I suggest using the Japanese Kaizen approach of consistently making incremental improvements to your routine in achieving a better life/work balance.  

At Blankinship & Foster, we are always looking for ways to help make our clients’ lives better.  Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

About Monica Ma

Monica Ma, CFP®, CFA® is an advisor and the chair of the Investment Committee at Blankinship & Foster LLC. She helps clients build sound investment portfolios and develop strategic plans to reach their goals. Since Monica is passionate about sharing her knowledge with women and retirees, she co-leads the firm's Wise Women and Living Wisely Educational Series. Monica is a member of the International Community Foundation's Investment and Finance Committee. She has been living in San Diego since 2008 and enjoys travelling and cooking with her family.

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