Before 2020, most of the world saw remote work as an aberration to the way things are supposed to operate. Even those who saw the potential it offered deemed it to be a thing of the future. But then the COVID-19 outbreak happened and the business world turned upside down. Consequently, remote work no longer remained a choice or a privilege. It became the only thing keeping businesses from crashing down. On paper, this transition should have been met with relief. After all, one would hope that employees would be happy about the extrication of the need to commute. However, the ground reality has shaped out to be quite different. Due to a lack of readiness for mass adoption of remote work, work-life balance has been severely compromised.
The importance of boundary-setting
Many factors contribute to this outcome. For starters, living in the same environment during and after work hours is difficult to navigate. To tackle this challenge with grace, one needs to make conscious efforts to demarcate clear boundaries between life in and outside of work. However, that clearly hasn’t been the case. Time saved on travelling to the office is being put back into extra working hours. It isn’t even uncommon now for organisations to encourage employees to stop working on weekends. Yes, we know it is a surprising fact!
So, if employees don’t learn boundary-setting soon, they’ll fall right into the lap of burnout.
It is a universal fact that burnouts are the worst nightmare for any company! Because the reversal process of uplifting an employee’s productivity is a subjective matter and it can take weeks or may be months, to get back on track.But, there’s no need to spiral just yet. There’s still time for interventions. Also, it is the need of the hour for both sides, employees and organisations, to define a balanced work-life scenario. So, here are 5 ways to manage work-life balance when both are in the same environment.
1. Promote well-being on an organisational level
Organisations need to show that they care about the well-being of their employees. It is a standard business practice to evaluate the performance of employees every quarter. Adding another level to it, companies can also slip-in a short survey form to detect any possible sign of burnout. Another critical aspect of an individual’s welfare is expressing oneself freely. More than often, employees develop friendships within the organisational set-up and feel comfortable in discussing various matters influencing their lives and work. However, with work-from-home set-up, it has become a lost tradition and any step to revive it can possibly uplift the spirit of employees. Partnering with platforms to promote overall well being of employees is critical to assure the employees are well looked after.
At the HR level, various efforts can be made to intervene and encourage employees to focus on their well-being. For instance, a monthly reminder to team leads and members on the pending leaves of the members. Organisations can also capacitate team leads to obligate a day-off to his team member(s) whenever deem necessary. It is also recommended to conduct regular one-on-one discussions with employees to evaluate their mental health. Understanding their unique problems is key to providing them with tailored solutions. That’s what we’ll talk about next.
2. Deepen understanding of burnout triggers
Work-from-home doesn’t look the same for everybody. Some employees also need to double up as caregivers while operating out of their houses. For instance, new parents may find it challenging to focus during standard working hours with kids running around. Consequently, they may be putting in extra hours to compensate for time lost during the day. The point here is simple. Burnout triggers for everyone are different and universal solutions may lack efficacy. Instead, HR teams need to establish communication channels to understand individual burnout triggers and come up with solutions accordingly.
Virtual work set-ups have given shape to new work challenges with limited view to the managers. Solution? Re-training of team leads to evaluate an employee’s performance and any signs of burnout from a different perspective. The managers, whom we have trained long enough to keep the energy of their “place” or “team bays” up and high, need to mend their evaluation and motivation tactics. Today, the employees are more likely to display varying levels of energy impacted by their lifestyle or responsibilities at home. In the specific case that we’ve discussed above, employees with small kids may need longer lunch breaks, fluid work hours instead of a strict log-in schedule, etc.
Organisations must also promote the idea of job autonomy. The governing principle here is trusting the employees to know their responsibilities towards work and managing important deadlines. Let us expand this idea a bit more in our next recommendation.
3. Embrace Flexible Scheduling
For some employees, a flexible work schedule may deter the threat of burnout more than any other intervention. We’re all differently wired and acknowledging the same will only help businesses harness the true potential of their employees. More precisely, different people are most productive at different hours. Some enjoy taking frequent breaks, whereas others have a penchant for long-drawn sessions. The power of flexible scheduling lies in the fact that it gives individuals the chance to shine on their own terms.
4. Have a dedicated workspace/home-office, physically and mentally
Having a dedicated workspace can help employees combat burnout and foster work-life balance. In the case of new parents, a corner away from the reach of children can do wonders for their productivity during working hours. In fact, having a home office is suitable for everyone engaged in remote work. A physical boundary between work and life can help reinforce the mental one as well. Although, at the mental level, we need to apply more muscle to build the wall. For example, right after signing-off from work daily, individuals can undertake some activity before heading straight towards home-chores. The time employees save on travelling back to home can be put to use for doing power yoga, a brisk walk, or anything that can refresh their minds.
5. Plan your day
Even with flexible working hours, employees can end up giving away too much to work. Doing so comes at the cost of time spent on hobbies and personal pleasures. Yet again, the argument here is the same. Without conscious efforts, work-life balance will always be an expendable object. So, to avoid spending more time than necessary at work, simply dedicate a few minutes to view your complete day before doing anything. Devise a quick day plan and try to stick with it. Include the necessary breaks between the work meetings or otherwise. Before signing-off, review how you did basis the plan you made and keep improving it every day. Gradually, you will feel more in control of your work as well as your life. Use your Calendar efficiently to manage time ensuring you have enough Fragmented pockets of time (time between scheudled meetings). These time pockets if used and planned effectively can provide a much needed breather and prevent everyday exhaustion.
Burnout is a very tangible problem currently facing the business world. So, it’s important for us to ensure that we don’t come out of one pandemic and give rise to another. Let’s start with the tips detailed above and adapt as needed.
This article was originally published on Kelly Services blog