Maintaining the 9:5 Rule for Remote Work-Life Balance
First schools and malls shut down throughout the country to limit the spread of COVID-19. Then companies started asking workers to work from home (WFH) where possible.
WFH is familiar to many working professionals. However, even WFH experts will tell you, maintaining a work-life balance becomes a challenge.
To help you manage your professional as well as personal life while working remotely, we have come up with 9 work-related rules and 5 personal life rules (we call it a 9:5 rule).
Let’s get started!
9 Rules to Balance Work
1. Work Area
Your first step is to build a workspace that is conducive to working from your house. Ideally, you'll be sitting behind a closed door in a room by yourself. No significant others or roommates, no kids, no refrigerator and no bed to tempt you.
Invest in the right furniture to make your workspace comfortable. A decent desk and ergonomic chair are better than a backache caused by working with your laptop on the sofa. Keep your desk clean and tidy.
Make sure you have a wall or background that suits a Skype or video call with colleagues.
2. Get Organized
Get your laptop, notebook, pen, cell phone, and chargers arranged. Invest in a noise cancelling headset if you are in a noisy home.
If you have kids, figure out who is going to take care of them while schools are closed. Share time slots and child-related activities, if your partner is on WFH too.
Organize routines and rules for other disturbances like the housekeeper and doorbell. There are things that you cannot ignore when you are at home. So, plan your work accordingly and be flexible.
3. Avoid Distractions
What were harmless social media distractions at the office can become deadly productivity killers during WFH as there's no team to drag you back to work or anyone to judge you when they see something non work related on your screen.
Disable extensions to social media and shut off all notifications both in your desktop browser and on your mobile phone. Try to use your phone for work calls only during working hours.
Lastly, put your coffee mug and snacks on your desk so you’re not finding excuses to run off to the kitchen.
4. Plan Your Workflow
Plan the work one day prior. Have a to-do list or plan in front of you. Prioritize your assignments and plan time blocks leaving space between to prepare for contingencies such as unexpected team calls, discussions, and new urgent tasks.
When you are working on a task, try not to switch to another task before you complete the first.
Do not get pulled away by your need to respond to a new email. Multi-tasking or frequent switching is a productivity killer.
5. Communication First
While working from home, the secret to success is to emphasize contact. Your team and boss need to know you are on hand and take WFH seriously. Instead of sending an email, consider calling your colleagues on video or talk with them about daily queries. Be sure that your organization has some kind of realtime chat solution like Hangouts or Slack.
Managers can perform a regular performance evaluation of their teams and get adequate face time with them. If you are alone at home, you run the risk of social isolation. Participate in remote non-work related video hangouts with your team.
Provide the needed productivity technology, organize social interactions and discuss how they are coping with the situation.
6. Block People
In a WFH routine, the big obstacle is the presence of other people at home and even pets.
Avoid distractions by agreeing with them on ground rules. Pretend you aren't at home while working.
Do not engage in conversations, personal calls or housework. It is important to create boundaries.
7. Stay Committed to Deadlines
Remember that while working from home, you are receiving a paycheck. Stay dedicated to deliverables and timeframes. Even during scheduled breaks, avoid home duties or personal appointments. Do not misuse WFH by being inaccessible or you may compromise your professional reputation and can lose your job in the event your company needs to cut costs to manage challenges caused by the pandemic.
8. Master Technology to Stay Productive
There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not work from home is productive. Learn to use the best available WFH technology. For a team video call, you can use Google Hangouts, Zoom, or similar networking software.
Project management platforms such as Basecamp or Trello help you achieve team results and plan your day.
If you are a sales manager and want to make sure that your team is still productive while working remotely, Prodoscore gives you visibility into the sales activities of your remote workforce.
Discuss with your IT department any support you may need, including setting up a VPN if necessary.
9. Cracking Productivity
Don't expect day one to be super productive. Give yourself time to adjust and settle in. Schedule the hardest tasks for the morning and reserve meetings and calls for the afternoon to maximize productivity. Work in 25-minute bite-sized pieces – also known as the Pomodoro technique.
Then, stand up and walk around for 5 minutes, preferably in sunlight and fresh air. Use a music list or a background sound on your speaker if it helps you focus. When you are productive and happy, you can enjoy and appreciate the perks of WFH better.
Maintaining 5 Rules to Balance your life
1. Establish Boundaries
Establish rules and boundaries to protect your personal life from work that can creep into it. Do not tackle work outside of office hours and do not disrupt family or social time in order to complete work tasks. Increase your social interactions (while maintaining social distancing) with friends and family to fend off loneliness and compensate for the lack of human contact.
2. Make a Routine
Just like your workday, build a morning routine. Wake up, freshen up, take a 5-minute walk and grab your cup of coffee before you sit down for work.
Likewise, adopt an end-of-day routine like shutting your laptop and bagging it. Maintaining habits you follow in office will allow you to switch between your personal and professional lives more seamlessly.
3. Set Break Reminders
Regular breaks are vital for mental balance. While working in an office, a break comes in the form of a colleague stopping by to have a quick chat or a walk to the coffee machine. Set your alarm while working from home for regular breaks for meals, coffee, a quick personal chore or just to stand up.
4. Turn Off Office Communication
Once you are done with office hours, that’s it, close the channel of communication.
For instance, don’t check emails on your phone, don’t take work calls or reply to chats, etc.
Although you are working from home, you don’t need to be available 24/7.
5. Leave the Office Mode
Don't stay in your "office mode" one your work for the day is complete. Set aside your headphones, leave your desk, change your clothes and engage in your home life and activities instead.
Now that you know the rules, get ready to play your part in staying productive during this unstable time, when your company needs you most.