In my very first post for Indianapolis Moms, I wrote about how I was moving on from the term work-life balance and instead focusing on finding my rhythm as I navigate life as a working mom. Like some of you, I have been working from home for the last 6 months. This change has completely shifted the rhythm I was starting to establish and my ever-changing perspective on “work-life balance.”
With home being the new office, it’s easy for the lines between work and home to become blurred. I waffle between enjoying working from home and wishing things would return to normal. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the benefits of working from home. Sleeping later. No morning or evening commute. Meal prepping during lunch break. Tossing in a load of laundry. Yet, there are some downsides. Always having work at my fingertips. Logging more hours. Missing face-to-face connections with colleagues. There’s also the added pressure to over-perform or prove my value since no one is around to witness my productivity.
When the sudden shift to telecommuting happened, I think there was a general consensus that productivity would slow down. I haven’t experienced a decrease in my workload. I’ve actually been working more hours than before. There have been more days than I care to admit over the last 6 months where I have felt too tired, too overwhelmed, and near burn out. It’s been tough “balancing” it all, but since the end of this pandemic is nowhere in sight I am focusing my attention on creating new rhythms to make sure I’m maintaining good boundaries between work and home.
Here are a few things that have helped me.
- Maintain a morning routine. Having a morning routine has been essential. I wake up before everyone else in my house so that I can have a few minutes alone. This time typically includes reading my Bible, praying, and journaling. I may also practice yoga if time allows.
- Establish transition times. Without a morning and evening commute, I still make sure I have a definitive start and end to my work day. I typically start my work day the same way each morning. I grab a cup of tea, turn on my computer, and start with reviewing my to-do list for the day. I try to end my day by creating a to-do list for the next day. And then I turn off my computer. When we started sending our kids back to daycare, dropoff and pickup became natural transition times.
- Have a dedicated work space and work hours. I am fortunate that I have a separate space in my home to work. I use our guest room, which I don’t typically use any other time, so I’m not easily tempted by work outside of normal business hours. I also try to keep consistent work hours so work does not bleed into family time. One thing that has helped is not allowing work email notifications on my phone and establishing quiet hours in the Microsoft Teams app so I don’t receive chat or call notifications in the evening and on weekends.
- Take breaks. Without the typical office distractions, it’s so easy to sit at my desk for hours before I take a break. I have to constantly remind myself to get up and move. Sometimes I will walk around my house for a few minutes, grab a snack, or do a short office yoga routine. When I was working in the office, I was terrible at taking a lunch break. Working from home, I have made my lunch break a daily priority. I step away from my computer and do something completely unrelated to work while I enjoy my lunch like reading a book, sitting on my porch, taking a walk, or watching a show on Netflix.
- Don’t underestimate social connection. Working from home can be isolating. I try to connect with coworkers throughout the day via chat or video call. At the start and end of meetings, I also try to be intentional about making a personal connection with the person(s) I am talking to. My husband is also working from home so it is nice to have someone else that I can physically see and talk to at points throughout the day.
- Make time for self-care. This pandemic has allowed me to focus on defining what self-care means for me. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, I try to make time to do things that refresh my soul. These days, my self-care looks like writing, reading before bedtime, washing my face, dancing with my daughter, or listening to good music. Anything I can do that makes me feel the smallest bit of peace. And let’s be real, we can all use a little bit of peace right now.
Working from home has its perks, but without appropriate boundaries, the lines between work and home can easily become blurred, and if we’re not careful, have a negative impact on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The pandemic has rocked our world and certainly shaken up everything we once knew as normal. There’s no telling how long this new way of life will be our reality, but I will continue to find my rhythm. I hope you will too.