It’s clear that the previously well known balance of work and family is breaking down as the expectations for many to balance work, family, school demands, and more has remained the same, while pressures of maintaining or increasing work output is rising. In a social poll I hosted, 30+ people shared new challenges between people managers and employees during the pandemic.
Use these 5 strategies for employees to enhance home and work balance in your career and life.
Reset your accountability lens
Traditionally we have been held accountable to our working time by the time clock. Clock in at the office at 8am, stay for 8 hours, and then head home — our responsibility has been completed. In the new working from home environment, our mindset of being accountable to work is between the “must log on first thing in the morning” even if it’s at 6am to the “must have a meeting to fill every minute of my day” routine. All of this adds up to “must be busy” = completing my responsibility.
Working from home has the ability to teach us to refocus how we work. When it comes to accountability, we need to reset our lens. This means stepping away from the always-on thought bubble and carving out specific times you give attention. Notice I didn’t say 100% attention — it’s okay to help your kids with homework during these times. It’s not only okay, I applaud you for your resilience.
Rethink the lunch room chats and “water cooler conversations”
One of the top comments I hear is how people miss the casual conversations that happen as they were walking from meeting-to-meeting or as they were walking to grab coffee or water. These quick conversations give an opportunity to check-in on what’s happening either personal or work related.
When working remote, it’s important for employees to enhance home and work balance. Water cooler conversations can go virtual and help support this. These are great in keeping the connectedness with colleagues and work friends. While no one wants to see another department happy hour on the calendar, take initiative and set up your own water cooler invite. Send it only to the people who give you energy, the kind that you look forward to — it can also be a great way to network if you invite one person and ask them to invite one person, and so on.
Optimize productivity with block scheduling + task batching
Building in blocks of time throughout the day will give you a set time that is reserved for high productivity to get things done. During this time, batch together similar tasks and do them all at once in a block of time versus doing them sporadically. Providing feedback and responding to emails, drafting project plans, or writing, are all great tasks to batch together. You’ll save time in the long run because you’re not switching back-and-forth in between topics or meetings while trying to complete the task.
Tip: I use this strategy for similar meeting types i.e. all meetings related to a specific project or problem I’m trying to solve are right after one another on the same day if possible. It’s best to plan your schedule ahead one month at a time versus week-to-week as this helps secure the time so your schedule is working for you.
Remove visual work cues during off times
This includes your work notebook, your laptop, and all items that will stir the feeling that you need to be working. You may be thinking “I work at a desk in my bedroom, how do I put it away?” What I mean is, put these items in a drawer of your dresser, in a cabinet, somewhere your laptop or notebook aren’t beaming “open me.”
This is a must-do in order for people to have better home and work balance. The action of closing a drawer will give you a signal to the end of your workday.
Assess your communication line with your manager
The employee – manager relationship works two ways. You may have been able to stop by your manager’s desk for a quick chat while in the office, yet nowadays it’s a new world. How are you ensuring these touch points are happening in the new environment? More importantly, how are you making sure they’re happening at the length and cadence that helps you be the most productive?
Be intentional in how and when you communicate with your manager as they’re meant to help you navigate, but they’re not there to manage your day-to-day. To get the most out of your conversation, there’s a level of transparency you should be bringing to each conversation in how it’s going, where you have barriers, the flexibility that you need, etc.
Tip: In your next meeting, say this to your manager: “I could really use your input on xyz as it will help me overcome xyz” or “I have one thing that I need your attention on this week.”
It’s clear that the well known balance of work and family is breaking down. Put these 5 strategies in to action to enhance home and work balance in your career and life. As the pandemic surges on, it’s important to manage work differently by creating systems that work for you.
Questions? Any advice or experiences to add? Share below in the comments — I look forward to reading them and responding!