Woman in business suit with face mask

Looking for ways better balance your work life during lockdown? Here are some tips.

Manage online meetings

You may think you can multitask (see point 3 below), but when you are checking email, text messages, twitter and maybe playing a game of solitaire while you are in an online meeting, you are going to miss some of what you need to know. It is also disrespectful to your colleagues to not give the meeting your full attention.

Put away temptation: if you are using your computer for the meeting, put your phone in a drawer or, better yet, another room. Close any open files on your computer. Exit from your email program. Turn off notifications on all your devices. Just say no to solitaire.

Multitasking doesn’t usually work very well

There are many different ways that workplace efficiency experts calculate how much time we lose by moving from one task to another, but the bottom line of all of them is the same: every time you interrupt what you are doing to do something else, you lose your focus and it takes you time to get it back when you return to that task.  It also increases your stress level.

While it is not always possible, do the best you can to structure your day so you can complete one task before jumping into another.

Email is probably our biggest enemy in this respect. Set a schedule for check your email and try to stick to it.

At the beginning of your workday, set your priorities and design a schedule for your day that will ensure you complete at least your highest priority items.

While you are working on one task, focus on it and try not to get distracted by the next task on your list or wondering what you are going to make for dinner.

Take breaks

When we work remotely, we run the risk of either taking too many breaks or not taking enough. It can be easy, if you are not used to working on your own, to get distracted by laundry that needs to get done, running a quick errand (or two or three), playing with a pet or just staring into space. It can also be easy to move immediately from one task to another – especially when those tasks are online meetings — without giving yourself time to clear your head from the past task and prepare it for the next.

Taking regular breaks is important for your body, mind and soul. If you are working from home, this allows you to deal with some of the details of daily life, but it is important to also remember you are at work even if you are at home, and not to spend the afternoon in the kitchen or watching TV with your housemates.

A 10-minute walk around the block, getting a load of laundry into the washing machine or hung up on the line, chopping ingredients for a meal or just doing some stretching in your work space, bedroom or living room are all good ways to clear your mind, use your body and return to the next work task refreshed and focused.

Transitioning

While the commute to work can be annoying, it also provides an important transitional time: travelling to work allows you to process and set aside any annoyances from home and the trip home lets you do the same with respect to work issues. Without that trip each day, it can be hard to keep those two worlds separate so it is important to find a way to build transition.

Some of the tips above for taking breaks during the workday might work for creating transition. Perhaps you can start and end your work day with a short walk or change your clothes or do something different with your hair or jewellery to signal to yourself as well as your housemates when you are working and when you are not. If you have a designated workspace at home, close the door to it at the end of the day.

Boundaries

Just because you are working remotely does not mean you should be working all the time. Resist the temptation to answer email late into the night. Don’t bring your work phone into your living space because, if it is with you on the couch while you are watching TV, chatting with your housemates or reading a book, you will look at it and get drawn into whatever you find there.

Stay connected

Even if you now spend much of each workday online and are sick of living with earbuds in your ears, consider creating regular online work social encounters. We need to find ways to recreate the connections we would otherwise be having in our workplaces. You may not be able to chat with your colleagues in the lunchroom at work, but you can have a zoom or skype staff lunch where you can catch up with one another on a personal level. You can organize a team cocktail gathering or an online potluck dinner at the end of the day from time to time.

Be mindful

During the pandemic it’s hard to know what is going to happen next or when it is going to happen. Feeling like we are waiting, like our real lives are on hold, until “things get back to normal” creates stress. It’s important to try to let go of the many things over which we have little or no control and to focus on the here and now. Being mindful, accepting that the life you are living now – work and personal – is the life you have and focusing on what you are doing now will all help you feel less stressed and happier, which will make you better able to focus on your job when you are at work and on the rest of your life when you are not.