Coronavirus has turned homeworking into the new normal, but boundaries between our personal and professional lives are beginning to erode, and mental health of staff is being affected. Work-life blur is becoming a real issue.
“At the start of lockdown we were running on adrenaline – but now we are being expected to work, play, sleep and live from the same room – and it’s having an affect on productivity and mental health”, explains Melissa Broxton from coworking experts Worksnug.com
Is it possible to maintain a work-life balance when both things are happening in the same place? This is known as “work-life blur” and is something that homeworkers and their employers should be wary of.
The benefits and challenges of the work-life blur of homeworking
There are certainly benefits to homeworking. As well as sparing workers the ordeal of the daily commute, it allows them to think of their day in terms of tasks rather than hours. Once all tasks have been completed, the day can end. This is far more motivating than running down the clock in an office because you must be there from 9 until 5.
However, this flexibility comes with its own set of problems. Without set working hours, many employees will find it hard to switch off. Finishing early may create feelings of guilt, even if all tasks have been completed. With no set hours, workers may be left feeling that they are never fully at work, but also never fully away from work. This can easily start to affect an employee’s personal life, as they may find themselves frequently checking in with work during leisure time.
How to avoid work-life blur
Both employers and employees can take steps to avoid work-life blur.
Set a working day and finish on time:
Employers can help by setting reasonable deadlines and not contacting their staff outside of traditional office hours.
Set clear boundaries:
Employees also have a responsibility to be firm about their boundaries. Having a separate phone or laptop for work can help to create a sense of separation between the personal and professional world.
Separate work from home:
Turning a certain room of the house into an office can also help to reintroduce the physical distinction between work and home.
“We need to be mindful that everyone is different, and each employee has different demands. Some thrive in an isolated environment, and others hate it. Flexibility of work and life is going to be important moving forward”, concludes Melissa Broxton from Worksnug.com
Communication is absolutely key. Richard Alvin, Managing Editor of Business Matters Magazine spoke on the matter:
‘As a business based in Canary Wharf, we were told way back in 2010 that preparations for the smooth running of the London 2012 Olympics would be top priority in the area. From that point on, the managers sat down together and we devised a scheme of work whereby our employees could work from out or out of the office. Developing deadlines, tasks and back-end systems to ensure that the level of work and service was as high as it always it, without the commute.
‘It can be done but much like any change to a very prescribed method of working, getting used to working from home still requires time to get used to the change as well as a new way of managing your surroundings.
‘Being in an office means that communication between teams is instant. That communication is key to daily business decisions and needs to be upheld by other means – Slack/Whatsapp/Telegram – all are excellent for real time comms.
‘Of course with corona virus closing schools has mean that many staff members are having to battle child care as well as work on a daily basis and you can see the lines blurring there from being able to work during regular office hours.
‘We always say to our staff that it’s more about the task list – as long as the deliverables are achieved by the agreed time and that certain online meeting are adhered to, the rest of the time can be juggled to suit.
‘As much as staff need to manage their time, manager’s need to be realistic too. I would thoroughly recommend task management systems such as Asana, Monday or Red Booth to name a few, to set tasks, share files and view where everyone in the team is currently at.’
What is the future for Britain’s home workers post covid lockdown?
According to SHP, 71% of UK businesses plan to adopt more flexible and agile working practices post COVID-19 lockdown.
Where is Britain at compared to the rest of the world post-covid? According to a recent Gallup research, three in five (59%) of U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the coronavirus pandemic would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once public health restrictions are lifted. In contrast, 41% would prefer to return to their workplace or office to work, as they did before the crisis.
- A recent survey conducted by getAbstract, 43% of U.S. full-time workers in the U.S. would like to work remotely more often after COVID-19, citing the absence of a commute, added flexibility and productivity gains as the main motivations behind that wish.
- A new LinkedIn survey suggests more than three in five Australians believe working from home will become the norm, even when the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
- 99% of people say they’d like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, as reported by ResumeLab.
For all of the stresses that covid has brought to us, perhaps the new work life balance of office and home is a positive one, it just needs to be managed to ensure that the results are the desired ones.