How to Find Work-Life Balance, Whether You’re in the Office, Hybrid or Remote
How to Find Work-Life Balance, Whether You’re in the Office, Hybrid or Remote
As the working world has shifted over the last few years due to effects largely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, work-life balance looks different today than it did just a few years ago. A study by Gallup showed that in 2019, only about 8% of employers had their team exclusively working from home, while about one third were hybrid. In February 2022, 39% of companies reportedly were exclusively remote and 42% followed a hybrid schedule. This shift in workplace dynamics challenges the separation between work and personal life, putting work-life balance to question.
Remote employees, often working from an at-home office, face blurred lines between time working and personal time. In fact, a recent study found that 45% of professionals who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before.
Hybrid workers face similar challenges, as working in multiple spaces causes issues with the coordination of resources and team schedules, making it difficult to establish an effective routine at times.
However, while in-office workers have more definite separation between work and personal spaces, they also face challenges with work-life balance. In-office employees often lack the flexibility that remote and hybrid workers have and commutes to and from work can cut into employee personal time.
No matter what an employee’s work situation is, they will likely face challenges in attaining balance between both work and personal time. Here are some tips for finding work-life balance, whether you’re in the office, hybrid or remote.
Create a Defined Working Space
When the pandemic swept through the nation and many employees found themselves working remotely, workers turned their kitchen tables, bedrooms and living rooms into workspaces. For those that remote work remained permanent, a defined and effective working space is key. First, having a separate working area not only helps physically separate work and personal spaces, it also can keep working equipment out of view. This is important, as employees whose spaces are combined may be tempted to work additional hours or stress about the next week’s projects when enjoying personal time.
Additionally, it is important that remote employees take the time to create an effective working space. This can mean investing in an ergonomic desk or chair, incorporating technologies such as multiple monitors and/or including décor that keep the employee organized and productive. Employees are spending 40+ hours a week at their working area. Taking the time to create a defined and effective working space can enable workers to do their best work without compromising personal time.
Set a Daily Schedule
One of the benefits of remote work is that it often enables employees to have a flexible schedule. For work-life balance, this is generally a good thing, as it allows for employees to tackle personal tasks during traditional work hours. However, too much flexibility can cause employees to overwork and hinder work-life balance. A good way to avoid this is to set a daily schedule.
First, employees should try to set a start time for work each day and stick to it. Not only does this help keep employees on track, it also helps their team know when they are able to be reached. Additionally, each day should be mapped out. Employees should consider what work tasks need to get done and what personal tasks might bleed into their workday. Employees can then plan accordingly as to when to take breaks and when to stop work for the day. While things may change throughout the day, having a daily schedule can enable employees organize their day effectively for both work and personal life.
One of the things that remote employees may struggle with is taking breaks throughout the day. A 2021 study of 2,000 US employees found that 60% of remote workers feel guilty taking breaks throughout the workday and 30% don’t take a lunch break at all. In a traditional office setting, breaks can come by way of conversations with coworkers, lunch breaks, or a walk around the office. In a remote setting, these simple pauses may be overlooked.
Breaks throughout the workday have been shown to reduce stress, decrease errors and increase engagement. Remote employees can incorporate more breaks into their workday by blocking off their schedule, scheduling time to catch up with coworkers or going for a quick walk away from their desk. By being more thoughtful about incorporating breaks into their working schedule, remote workers will enable themselves to do better work in the long run.
Set Expectations & Stick to a Routine
Hybrid employees, who typically have multiple workspaces, can face challenges with the coordination of work schedules and resources. One way hybrid workers can improve work-life balance is to set expectations with their managers and team. Discussions should be had around methods of communication, schedules for days in-office versus remote, as well as the expectations for those days. For example, some teams may try to schedule internal meetings during days in-office. If the employee has a clear understanding of their expectations, and those of their team, they can establish a schedule and overall be more efficient with their working time.
Once clear expectations have been set, it is important that hybrid employees try their best to stick to a routine. Having a general routine for days working in the office and at home will help keep the employee organized with coordinating work schedules and work equipment. For example, an employee would know what the best day and time would be to schedule a meeting based on if they want to be in the office or virtual. While unplanned instanced may come up, establishing a solid routine can be key for hybrid workers.
Develop Effective Working Areas
Just as it is important for remote workers to have an effective at-home working space, it is equally as important for hybrid workers. Hybrid workers are often challenged with transporting work equipment to and from their workspaces. Employees should consider creating an at-home space that is comfortable and allows them to easily unplug and work elsewhere.
Hybrid employees may also not have a designated work area when working from the office. Some employers offer workers open desk seating, enabling employees to choose a different workspace each workday. While an effective space-saving tool for employers, this model can be challenging to employees who lack the ability to customize their working space. To combat this, employees can keep items in their bag that help customize their working area. For example, if an employee likes a specific kind of mouse or works better with a computer riser, these items could be brought in and taken home after the workday is over. Additionally, employees could try to sit in a similar area or the same desk when in-office. This can help create a familiarity with the space and enable employees to do their best work. Hybrid workers in any situation should take the time to make all of their workspaces effective for their daily use.
One benefit that hybrid employees have over remote employees is that they get the opportunity to have face-to-face connections with members of their team and organization. Hybrid employees can capitalize on their in-office time by being active in meetings, connecting with others and participating in events.
Corporate events, whether hosted by individual teams or by the organization, are a great way to network and stay engaged with an organization. Hybrid employees can schedule their workweek around any in-person events to try to capitalize on this time. Networking with other employees has been shown to increase professional confidence and social well-being. By utilizing this time, employees will be able to create connections with others in the organization, ultimately increasing their engagement within the organization and overall well-being.
Don’t Skip Your Lunch Break
Research shows that employees who take their lunch break are more engaged and productive. However, a study found that 66% to 82% of workers don’t always take their breaks. Traditionally, in-office workers have less flexibility than their remote and hybrid counterparts. For this reason, in-office workers should make an effort to take their full lunch breaks when possible.
A great strategy for employees to achieve this, is to block time off on their calendar for their lunch time. This can help prevent meetings to be scheduled during this time and create a routine for the employee. Additionally, lunch breaks can be used for more than just re-fueling. This time can be utilized to help complete any personal tasks, get outside and moving or for some quiet time. Lunch breaks can also be taken with team members and coworkers to incorporate social interaction during the day. By thoughtfully taking and utilizing lunch breaks effectively, employees can work toward achieving greater work-life balance.
Capitalize on Your Commute
Employees who are traveling into the office every day have a unique opportunity when it comes to their daily commute. Overtime, a worker’s daily commute can add up. The Census recorded that US employees have an average commute of 25.6 minutes one-way. Using this data, this means that on average, an in-office worker who commutes five days per week will spend an average of 4.26 hours per week and over 221 hours, or nine days, per year commuting to work.
In-office workers can utilize their commute for personal time. During this time, they can unwind and catch up with friends or family via the phone or expand their knowledge on any interests or hobbies they have through audiobooks and podcasts. Commutes can also be used to conduct work calls, check email (if commuting via public transportation) or to further education in work-related topics. In any case, in-office workers have a dedicated, uninterrupted time that can be utilized to improve their work-life balance.
Use All of Your Paid Time Off (PTO)
The average US employee, regardless of work location, historically has not taken all their available paid time off (PTO) offered. In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 55% of American workers didn’t use all of their vacation days in 2022. While there are many factors that play into workers not using their time, there are many benefits of taking full advantage of it. Time away from work has been shown to increase motivation, decrease stress levels and improve overall mental and physical health.
Utilizing PTO is especially important for in-office workers, as they generally have less flexibility, not only in work location, but also with start and end times. Employees can enable themselves to utilize their PTO effectively by planning out known days-off (trips, appointments, etc.) in advance. From there, they can identify how many days they have left and try to incorporate days for mental health, completing personal tasks or other individual reasons. By utilizing their available PTO, in-office workers can work toward achieving an effective work-life balance.
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