5 tips for better work-life harmony while working remotely

July 27, 2021 11:19
Photo: Reuters

The new normal has accelerated an abrupt shift to flexible work arrangements, with most if not all employees having experienced remote or hybrid way of working in the past year. However, some might have been struggling as the lines between work and home have somehow dissolved during the period.

According to a research by LinkedIn and the Mental Health Foundation, employees feel obliged to be online as often as possible during working from home, which has the potential to have a negative effect on their mental health by adding stress and anxiety. When working from home, particularly in Hong Kong, bedrooms are being transformed into home offices, and dining tables are becoming new cluttered desks. The line between business time and personal time becomes blurred until the employees ultimately answer emails in bed and take meetings over bowls of cereal.

Among all, a recent study finds that some employees of specific workstyles are struggling with the new normal, and these workstyles include Collaboratives who spend most of their time working with others, Internals who spend most of their time working with other internal employees, and Tribes who socialize within their own team instead of extending their connections to the wider groups across the organization. Working from home may bring different interpersonal challenges to these workstyles including the potential implications for them to connect and maintain relationships with colleagues, not to mention the barriers for collaboration without any face-to-face interaction. In addition, it’s becoming more difficult to draw a line between work mode and home mode, especially if both take place in the same physical space.

With the impacts becoming more “visible,” it’s important for employers to support their employees to take the lead, if practicable, about managing an individual’s work life and home life in order to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, which will lead to better quality of life in general. When an employee can set a clear, effective daily agenda that includes room for flexibility, not only can the individual enhance efficiency and productivity, but the employee can also achieve their career goals more efficiently in the long run.

5 tips to achieve better “work-life harmony”

Many employees nowadays are looking for work-life balance, or a relatively newer strategy of “work-life harmony”. The new concept refers to a comfortable state of harmony between a person’s professional and personal life, which the employee can be more proactive in implementing a flexible and efficient work model, and thereby achieving an equilibrium between work and life. What that balance looks like is different for everyone. Moreover, striking a good balance depends on the kind of work one does and the personality type.

Christena Nippert-Eng, a sociologist and professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, categorized workers as either “integrators” or “segmenters.” These two types of employees manage their time in different ways, resulting in two very different work-life balances. The integrator tends to bring their work home and send work emails during their downtime, while the segmenter is more likely to set clear boundaries between the office and home and turn off notifications on work devices in the evening.

Regardless of which workstyle an employee belongs to, here are 5 steps that employees may take toward a healthy work-life balance that benefits themselves and those around them.

1) Track the time spent on daily tasks and activities
For a week or two, make a note of how every hour of the day is spent, whether that’s working, relaxing, socializing, or sleeping. Knowing the shape of the existing work-life balance is the first step toward adjusting it.

2) Communicate the working hours to other colleagues
An employee should create an expectation with other colleagues around his or her availability, and avoid sending or replying to non-urgent emails outside of work hours. Unless the tasks are urgent matters, these can always wait.

3) Reduce the length and frequency of meetings
If an employee is “zoomed out,” chances are the rest of the team is too. Too many unproductive meetings delay the completion of other tasks and extend the workday. The employee can discuss the number of meetings scheduled and find ways to reduce them, as well as enhance the efficiency of meetings.

4) Create separate personal and professional user accounts on devices
An employee’s phone and laptop should have a separate login for work-related activities. This not only prevents notifications and calendar reminders from interrupting the employee during personal time, but a dedicated login helps reduce distractions and keep the individual more focused during the day.

5) Find a quiet desk away from home
Renting a dedicated workspace by the day is an excellent way to stay productive and properly manage one’s time. Some space providers offer flexible options that grant access to a large number of office spaces and meeting rooms in multiple locations, with no long-term commitment to worry about.

By maintaining a better work-life balance, one can work smarter, not longer. The individual will soon experience the benefits from the clear distinction between the two, including enhanced productivity, improved health and well-being with lower stress, and more importantly, a better home life that will make one feel relaxed and more energized. In the next normal with flexible or hybrid work arrangements, remote working is likely to stay and become part of our life, these little steps will take us further.

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Head of Hong Kong and Taiwan at WeWork