Working at Home Can Make Work-Life Balance Worse. Here’s What to Do

April 9, 2020 4 Minute Read

Working at Home Can Make Work-Life Balance Worse. Here’s What to Do

With so many of us adjusting to full-time remote work, there is an increasing struggle to manage other challenges. Whether it’s having the kids at home, caring for aging relatives or just delineating between your professional and private life, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

It’s a situation that puts the term “work-life-balance” in perspective. How can we balance life and work when they happen in the same place, 24-hours a day?

In the short-term, workers should consider having frank conversations with their managers and their household members, in order to establish new expectations and boundaries.

In the long-term, companies may reconsider what they expect from their employees, and how best to support them as they balance their professional and personal commitments.

We’ve broken down ways to cope with this new reality, along with a look at how companies may change their approach to work-life balance moving forward.

Working at Home Can Make Work-Life Balance Worse. Here’s What to Do

The Reality of Working from Home

Very few of us live in a home that resembles our office. While we may be used to travelling to a clean, quiet, distraction-free work environment, the reality of working from home means that our coworkers are now our children, pets and partners.

That means balancing a full-time work schedule with the demands of childcare (and homeschooling), household chores, meal prep and regular dog walking excursions.

This can be overwhelming, to say the least. That’s why setting boundaries and shifting expectations is essential.

Setting Boundaries

While you may not be able to create a distraction-free 8-hour shift for yourself, do your best to carve out set work hours and communicate them to family members.

If you’re managing childcare, consider splitting up your time with another household member. If they’re willing to take the morning, you can take the afternoon, or vice versa.

Don’t underestimate the power of creating a schedule and communicating it to others. A “do not disturb” sign for a home office might not hurt, either.

Talk to your manager about challenges you may be facing, and how you’re trying to address them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – this is a difficult time for everyone, and your supervisor likely understands this.

Working at Home Can Make Work-Life Balance Worse. Here’s What to Do

Finding Balance

While it’s important to set some boundaries, also keep in mind that they won’t – and can’t always – be enforced.

Embrace flexibility and let your coworkers (virtually) into your home. Maybe your child will make a guest appearance on a video conference, or your pet will decide they’re going to keep you company by sitting next to (or on top of) your keyboard.

These shared interruptions can be a way to bond with your colleagues, as you commiserate about difficulties while sharing positive stories and moments of gratitude.

Reach out to others with tips that are working for you, whether it’s effective home school lessons or a particularly successful bread recipe.

Remember that everyone is in the same situation and managing it as best they can.

Working at Home Can Make Work-Life Balance Worse. Here’s What to Do

Future Expectations

As with many business standards, companies may rethink their definition of work-life-balance once the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

“We are getting into a different rhythm these days, prioritizing family time, quiet time, time away from screens, as well as where we choose to work and for how long,” says Lisa Fulford-Roy, Senior Vice President and Head of CBRE’s Canadian Workplace Strategy Practice.

“We need to set boundaries around our work, and we’ll likely see more work-life balance expectations from employees going forward.”

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