Emerging from COVID-19, one thing is clear – remote working is here to stay. Jerene Ang looks into how we can overcome one of the biggest challenges of such an arrangement – achieving work-life harmony.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses across various sectors – with some harder hit than others. While the full impact may still be unclear, one thing is clear – remote working is here to stay, be it partially (a few days a week) or fully (having your home as your permanent desk).
According to a recent report by Deloitte – Remote work | A temporary ‘bug’ becomes a permanent ‘feature’ – up to 47.8mn people in the ASEAN-6 nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) could shift to working remotely over a multi-year time horizon.
While this arrangement certainly has its upside – think significant cost savings from reduced real estate, travel, and infrastructure costs, it also poses significant challenges to the workforce.
One of the biggest day-to-day challenges of this arrangement is achieving balance to help us feel more in control of our time. Here at Human Resources Online, we have come up with four tips, on how you can achieve the much desired work-life harmony while working from home.
Compartmentalise your time
Break down your day into one-hour chunks and assign yourself tasks during that time. For example, catch up on emails from 1pm to 2pm, put together that report your boss wants from 2pm to 3pm, etc.
Don’t forget to schedule in some breaks. With the workload piling up during this period, it’s not hard to end up working 16-hour days. Know that you don’t have to be chained to your desk until you finish all your work. For instance, if you’re not done with the day’s work by 6pm, don’t feel the need to reject your family’s request to spend time with them. Instead, take a break from 6pm to 8pm to have dinner and spend some quality time with your loved ones before spending another hour on the remaining work. You might feel more recharged after that quick break and get back into it more productively.
Most importantly, work out a schedule that works for you.
Take frequent breaks; make the effort to move
Even if you’ve scheduled two hours for a project report, it doesn’t mean that you can’t move from your desk for those two hours. Be it in the office or at home, it’s easy to get sucked into your work and forget to take breaks to move around in between.
With working from home already taking away that walk to and from the train station during our morning commute, these short movement breaks are even more important. In fact, one of the top tips I’ve picked up from the 2.5-day Performance Course by Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute is that frequent movement – getting up to walk for one to two minutes every hour – can help keep your energy levels up and keep you performing at your best.
So, make sure you put in the extra effort to move. If you need a conscious reminder, set an alarm every hour to remind you to get up, have a good stretch, and walk around the house for at least two minutes.
Break down your task list
This challenging period has probably made everyone’s task list nice and long. If you’re a borderline workaholic like me, you may be tempted to finish everything in one sitting and may get disappointed when you don’t.
However, it’s important to know that as much time as it took for that 50-item task list to build up, it’ll also take time to get through. Instead of diving head-first into it, take some time to realistically prioritise your tasks at the beginning of the day. Pick out the urgent tasks (the ones that absolutely need to be completed by the end of the day) and attack those first.
Once those tasks are completed, tell yourself that every other task you manage to finish is a bonus. This way, you won’t feel guilty when it’s time to log off and spend time with your family. It may even help slightly ease your anxiety from that ever-growing list. After all, work is never-ending, you don’t have to finish it all in a day.
Don’t hesitate to ask your team for support
"During these trying times, everyone can do with a shoulder to lean on. It is said that, 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together'. In times like this, we all want to go far."
For example, when putting this article together, I asked my teammates (Aditi and Priya) for things that helped them feel like they had work-life harmony during this period. As an added benefit, while we may be on the same team, we’re all very different individuals facing our own unique challenges. Hopefully, by crowdsourcing these tips, the article becomes helpful to a more diverse range of people, instead of only being relatable to people who face the same challenges as I do. So, don’t hesitate to ask your team for support and, of course, make sure to lend a helping hand when your teammates need it.
As we venture into this unfamiliar ‘new normal’ of life after COVID-19 subsides, we hope these tips will come in handy as you seek to achieve harmony in your daily lives.
This article has appeared in the May-June 2020 e-mag edition of Human Resources, Singapore, and Q2 2020 edition of Human Resources, Malaysia. Read the e-mag here.
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