It’s Time for Your
Work From Home
7 key questions to ask yourself to help avoid burnout and maintain focus while working from home in the middle of a global pandemic.
If you’re one of the 51% of employees in America who started working from home because of the pandemic, it’s time for a check-in. Now that the newness of it has worn off, do you find yourself working longer hours, taking less breaks, getting burned out more often, or struggling to set clear boundaries between work and personal life?
You or your team members might be among the 3 in 5 US workers would prefer to keep working from home, but you’re also in good company if you’re struggling to manage this new work-life balance while in the middle of a global pandemic, while wondering (if you’re a parent) what school or childcare will look like? It can be a lot of stress to handle, but there are some things you can do to make sure that working from home itself isn’t contributing to that burden and stress.
It’s time for a work from home health check up. Just as important as preventative medicine is to make sure you head off larger health problems down the road, below are some questions to ask yourself about your work life.
I’ll be exploring each of these areas in more depth, and offering some specific ideas and experiences for each, throughout this month. Sign up here to get these resources for free as I release them:
1: Do you have BOUNDARIES set?
What time do you log in and log off each day?
What hours are you expected to be “on”, and when you’re “off”, are you able to fully disconnect?
Since making the shift to working from home, has working outside of your regular hours been the norm, or the exception?
Aim to set healthy boundaries
It can be harder for people who bring work home to maintain a boundary of when you’re “on the clock” and when you’re off. When you set healthy boundaries for yourself and for your employees, you maintain respect for both your personal time and your work time. Don’t allow work to creep into home time, or for your home time to overtake work time.
2: Are you TAKING BREAKS?
Are you taking time to recharge?
Are you taking a lunch break and regular breaks throughout the day?
Are you moving your body enough?
Yes, you should still take a lunch break when working from home, and it’s OK to step away from your desk to recharge. When we are in the office, most people tend to take a lot more breaks [stat] than when we are in our homes. In an office, we take breaks to use the bathroom, we move from meeting to meeting room, we walk to get water or drinks, we walk through the cafeteria or kitchen. These parts of work are needed because it helps us move our bodies and take mental breaks. Just because you can sit at home all day long and not move more than 30 feet between your kitchen, bathroom, and computer means you need to put more effort into taking breaks and moving your body.
Go for a walk around the block, throw the ball for your dog, or jump on the trampoline with your kids for 5 minutes in the afternoon to get your heartbeat up before tackling your next project. Use a smaller glass/mug so you have to get up more often to fill it up, or play a quick game of uno as a replacement for the office puzzle, etc.
Be careful of house chores. It can be an awesome break to do laundry or dishes, but they don’t always serve your mental need for a break because it is still work.
3: Are you spending time to CONNECT?
Are you talking about more than work at work?
Are you finding time to catch up with your coworkers outside of regular team meetings or work discussions?
Missing the watercooler? It might take a little more work to catch up with your coworkers while working from home, but it’s still worth it. Try logging on to regular meetings a few minutes early or staying a few minutes later to check in with those you work with and see how they’re doing. We are living in stressful times, after all, and we can all use a pick-me-up here and there.
4: Do you manage your INTERRUPTIONS?
How do you handle interruptions?
What factors are within your control to minimize them?
Life interruptions are normal. During times like these, most people can understand and empathize if your dog, child or partner walks in on a meeting you’re having, or if your neighbor decides to mow her lawn right in the middle of a presentation. Most of the time, you can’t control these things from happening, and it’s happened to the best of us.
What you can do - especially if your new home office mates are adults or if your children are old enough to understand - is discuss beforehand the best times for them to interrupt you. It is natural to have conversations throughout the day with your co-workers in an office, and now that just happens to be the person who people you live with. However, sometimes you need to not be interrupted. One idea I have used successfully is wearing headphones to let others know when I‘m in a meeting or I need to be able to focus.
5: Have you created a DEDICATED WORK SPACE?
Does your home work space make it easier or harder for you to focus?
Take a moment to evaluate your home office setup. Not everyone will have space for a full office, but claim your spot at the kitchen table or the folding table in the guest room, etc.
Working from the couch is awesome for a day here and there. Doing this every day is not good for the body and usually not great for your motivation. If the couch is your best option at home, then change it up. Do some work on the couch and then move over to the kitchen table while the kids are outside playing, for example.
6: Is your old COMMUTE for you or your company?
What are you doing with the time you saved by not commuting to the office?
Working from home doesn't mean that you now work more. One of the perks of working remotely is that the time you spent commuting before is now time that you get to choose how to spend it, which doesn't have to be work. This can be time for you to recharge, exercise, eat, meditate, and take care of yourself to prepare to tackle the day.
7: Are you making your AVAILABILITY easy to know?
And when it comes to stepping away from your desk, how does your team when you’re available and when you’re not?
Protect your recharging time by letting your team know where you are so they can best communicate with you. Some common services, such as Slack, have an ability to set a status as an easy way to communicate that with your team and company. Use that status so that when you do need to take a break or step away from your desk, your coworkers aren’t wondering why you’re not answering. Relax the expectation that you need to immediately respond to messages or emails at all times while you are at home. If you know your response will be delayed, it’s polite to say so.
Did you think about the form of COMMUNICATION you are using?
And finally, how many emails or chat messages are you sending in order to address an issue or a question?
If it’s more than 1 or 2, consider dialing up your coworkers to talk over the phone or webcam call. When you were in an office, you might have been able to pop by your colleague’s desk to quickly resolve an issue - remember that sometimes a quick call can be more effective than a string of emails.
Are you stepping into the world of Remote for the first time or perhaps wanting to have a better remote experience for your company? Let me know what you are facing and we can find the successful solution for your specific needs.