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Work-Life Balance 101: For People New to Working Remotely

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

by Alyx Holder

With the current global COVID-19 pandemic, it seems no aspect of our lives has been untouched by the coronavirus. (Except our faces-- go wash your hands!) Social distancing and other measures being taken to "flatten the curve" have completely changed the way we live daily life. In the blink of an eye, we went from the comfort and familiarity of our daily routines to being sequestered in our homes under quarantine for the foreseeable future. Events have been canceled or indefinitely postponed, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned in most states, and many businesses have shut their doors or otherwise adjusted to our new normal.

Woman working on laptop

For many people, this is also the first time working remotely. Making that adjustment can be difficult, especially for those used to a more traditional office environment. Maintaining a work-life balance is challenging when your office is also your living room. If you are struggling with productivity, motivation, or just want to get more out of your time working from home, here are 10 tips you can follow!

TIP 1: Being Realistic

Transitioning from an office environment to working from home can be tricky, especially when it comes as suddenly as it has with this quarantine. It’s more than just setting up your laptop on the kitchen table or creating a Zoom account for meetings. Working from home means battling distractions, resisting temptations, and finding balance on the blurred line between home life and work life. Being realistic about the challenges you may face while working in a home environment better allows you to find solutions to help you stay focused.

TIP 2: DON’T Work in Bed

It’s tempting-- lounging around in comfortable pajamas and working from the comfort of your bed sounds like a dream. Don’t do it. Working in bed not only blurs the lines between work and rest, but it may also impact your cognitive faculties. Our brains are designed to create associations between locations and the expected social response. This is partially responsible for the “Doorway Effect”-- the phenomenon which causes you to forget things when you enter a new room.

Why does that mean you shouldn’t work in bed? Two reasons: your brain may struggle to focus as it fights the instinct to relax and begin to fall asleep, and it may disrupt your sleep schedule when it is time. By keeping your working space and resting space as separate as possible, you can preserve your brain’s natural separation between the two modes.

TIP 3: Optimize Your Workspace

Woman with afro working on laptop

So you can’t work in bed. Where should you work, then? If possible, set up your workspace in a well-lit, comfortable space with minimal distractions. Depending on your home’s layout and available space, it may not be possible to dedicate an entirely separate room for your home office. That’s okay, the important part is to have a dedicated workspace.

Once you’ve determined where your workspace will be, it’s important to ensure it’s optimized for your productivity. Ensure you have enough space and adequate power outlets for any and all equipment you may need. Keep your space organized and free of clutter to help optimize your remote working experience.

TIP 4: Set Hours and Take Breaks

Expecting yourself to power through eight solid hours of work isn’t realistic, even in the most ideal conditions. Our brains just aren’t made for that kind of continuous labor, despite the traditional eight-hour workday. Because working from home can throw off one’s work-life balance, schedule struggles are common. It can be difficult to hit a full eight hours of work each day; alternatively, some people struggle with turning work-mode off at the end of the day.

Without having a set schedule including breaks for getting away from your computer screen, you may see your productivity and quality of work suffer.

What is the ideal remote work schedule? That depends on you. Pay attention to your mind and body as you work. When does your mind start to wander? When do you pick up your phone and start scrolling, or get up for another snack just to have something else to do? For the average person, one to two hours is the maximum amount of time one can focus on a single task before needing a break, so create your schedule accordingly. Take 15 minutes to walk around your block (while practicing social distancing, of course.) When it’s lunchtime, step away from your computer and focus on enjoying your meal. And at the end of the day, turn off your computer, stop checking emails, and turn your focus to your home and family.

TIP 5: Build Your Schedule According to Your Energy

Black woman and man working on calendar

Are you someone who wakes up bright and early, ready to take on the day? Or do you need a bit more time and a few cups of coffee before you feel human again? There’s nothing wrong either way, but it’s important to know when developing your new remote work schedule. Plan your day around when you are most energized and focused to ensure your most important tasks get the attention they deserve.

TIP 6: Prioritization and Communication

Once you determine your peak productivity times, deciding how best to spend that time can be tricky. While it may be tempting to go for quantity and knock out all of your quick and easy tasks, that may not be the best approach. Instead, focus on making progress on one or two more intensive projects. Those quick and simple tasks on your lists can be completed when you need a break from the larger projects or during times of lower energy.

Likewise, it is important to determine which tasks require your personal attention and which can be delegated to someone else.

Whether you work with a team or rely on freelancers, being able to communicate your needs and get the help you need is vital for maintaining your work-life balance and preventing burn out.

TIP 7: Dealing with Distractions

Working from home certainly has some great perks, but it's important to also be aware of potential challenges. The most prominent issue that comes with working remotely is the abundance of distractions within the home. We decorate and arrange our living spaces for comfort and relaxation, so when we attempt to work while in this space, it can be hard to remain focused. Mitigate these issues by reducing the distractions within your immediate workspace.

This can include:

  • Avoiding televisions in the immediate workspace

  • Plugin your cell phone away from your desk area (unless necessary for working)

  • Using apps that reduce your access to cell phone distractions during work hours

  • If possible, work separately from disruptive or attention-demanding pets

TIP 8: Video Conferencing Etiquette

Black men video conference

Because of efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are using video conferencing to conduct meetings, interviews, and other business. While this is an adjustment and learning curve for everyone, following a few simple guidelines can help make your video conferencing go more smoothly:

  • Test your equipment beforehand

  • If you are hosting, log in a few minutes early

  • Take time to learn features such as screen sharing, voice muting, and other tools

  • Be sure you are in a well-lit area with minimal sound disruption

  • If using your phone, ensure it has enough battery for the duration of the call

  • Send a reminder email with login instructions at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time

  • Avoid talking over other participants as much as possible

TIP 9: Using Down Time to Skill Build

Many people under voluntary Coronavirus quarantine are choosing to use this time to focus inward on self-care and self-improvement. For some, this means finally having the time to indulge in an old beloved hobby. For others, it translates to learning something new and gaining new skills. Either option is a great way to pass the time and reduce stress.

Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning are great tools for building skills that can enrich your life. Whether you want to learn more about digital marketing or finally take up the guitar, using this time to focus on self-improvement can help improve morale during trying time.

TIP 10: Mental Health Check-Ins

The current COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we’ve experienced in recent history. The natural uncertainty and fear of our current shared predicament is to be expected. Giving yourself the time and space to process these emotions without getting trapped in them is important. This time may be especially difficult for those living with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Remember, even in these uncertain times, to keep yourself and your needs a priority.

If you need some time to decompress and get away from the insanity of our world right now, that’s okay. Taking care of yourself is vital, especially now. Above all, keep yourself healthy and safe until life can get back to normal.

We're excited to re-launch the Jali Creatives Blog and welcome Alyx Holder as our newest Content Writer! To learn more about what we do and our services click HERE!

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