Maintaining a Healthy Work-Home Balance

I was lucky and I had an office to hide in during the pandemic. However, for many of my clients, remote work is here to stay. Yes, working from home has become the norm. When the pandemic started, I reminded businesses that it was important to maintain a healthy work/home balance and to respect people’s boundaries. How did that work out for you? For your employees?

I do one to ones with my client’s employees and one of my recent surveys was to find out how the boundary between work and home is going. The overwhelming response was an invasion of space has happened. The stress of around the clock work has begun to wear on staff members. Having your job present in your home 24/7 can have a profound impact on your employee’s stress level and can lead to poor retention and staff turnover.

As I work at home today, I am reminded of these quick pointers to help re-establish workplace boundaries. I wrote these with employees in mind – but leaders – it’s time we started doing this for ourselves as well.

  1. Re-Implement work hours – Over the last couple years, workers and managers alike have become accustomed to sending emails or text messages 24 hours a day and expecting an immediate response. Implementing “quiet hours” forces people to abide by them. Whether setting the email servers to hold emails between the hours of 6pm-6am until the workday starts, creating a strict “Do not disturb” policy for texting, or even shutting servers down, this can aid in releasing the strain of constant communication. It’s time to give your everyone back their free time.
  2. Reintroduce “Notes” – When employees are offered the opportunity to disengage for a few hours, they often think of things they need to discuss with co-workers. Encourage them to keep a list of reminders, which they can then discuss with other employees during workday hours. It can be amazing how much time is saved by employees when they have time to clearly think things through before they jump into action.
  3. Start re-integrating workers back into the office – Make it volunteer. Ask workers to return to the office slowly and let them choose the days (if applicable for their position). With the current childcare shortages and gas prices, forcing everyone to return instantly may lead to a high staff turnover as they struggle to find work alternatives. But if it is on a volunteer basis or offered with an incentive for people to return to the office, this will produce a more positive outcome for all. Remove work from their homes and you will be surprised at how quickly things change.
  4. Allow time flexibility – When my clients first switched to working at home, they found that some of their employees became more consistent in their work output. It wasn’t that the workers didn’t “have time” to work, it was simply that their lives didn’t fit well into the 9-5 of most offices. I remember one of my client’s had a single mom working for them with two small children. This employee was submitting her work at 11:00 pm or even 3:00 am but she was getting it done and met every single one of her deadlines. Be flexible. If they get the work done, why does it matter what time it gets done? And most importantly, remember that why they work better at 3:00 am is really none of your business.
  5. Remind workers that the phone exists – Not every meeting or conversation needs to be a video call. Phone conversations can be just as informative and more focused on the conversation and less focused. Checking out my hair, or being distracted by my cool visual background are a non-issue when I am chatting on the phone.  I know phone calls are a bit “old school” but I encourage you to try it out. Not texting (the HR documentation Queen in me cringes), but a real in person and live phone call. Give it a try, you don’t need to see their desk, or their dog (although that is a perk) just get your information across.

These are common sense, but many of us need the reminder to keep our personal time sacred. If the pandemic taught me one thing, it is that I need time to recharge. If I don’t take that time, I am NO good to anyone. I bet I am not the only one to discover that. Let’s respect each other’s time and space.