Three Questions to Improve Your Work-From-Home Balance

How have you been adjusting to working remotely? Have you enjoyed bringing your ‘whole self’ to work? Or have you found yourself using more virtual backgrounds so as to not overshare personal effects in the work setting? How have you been taking time to rest and recharge your batteries? Or have you been feeling like you’re running on empty?

No matter how you’ve been coping, we have some quick and easy strategies to help you better set boundaries and adjust to working from home — shared by work-life expert Dr. Steffanie Wilk.

It turns out that our ability to work from home successfully all relates to how we set and maintain boundaries. By completing the three-question self-assessment below, you can better identify how to better set boundaries to be more successful in remote work environments.

Question #1: Are you a segmentor or an integrator?

  • Segmentors like to keep their work and personal lives separate.
  • Integrators are happy to integrate many parts of their lives.

Question #2: How do you manage your space and time boundaries?

  • Space boundaries: Do you have a dedicated work environment? Or are you more like a traveling professional?
  • Time boundaries: Do you follow a routine schedule that includes breaks? Or do you find yourself adapting more in the moment?

Question #3: What do you do to recover?

  1. Do you multitask? (e.g., watching Netflix and writing emails)
  2. Do you “should” yourself into believing there’s more you ought to be doing and thus you’re not achieving rest?
  3. Do you schedule explicit recovery times?

Let’s check your responses.

We’ll start with the first question. Whether you’re a segmentor or an integrator is less important than what you do with that information. Understanding how you prefer to manage your work and life boundaries will help you create conditions for yourself and your team to be more effective.

Segmentors, those who prefer to have more clear delineations between their personal and professional lives, may generally find work-from-home environments more challenging. Meanwhile, integrators, those who see their personal and professional lives holistically, may be more at ease in work-from-home environments.

Whether you are a team member, manager or organizational leader, it is important to understand that integrators and segmentors approach work differently. Requiring personal sharing activities in team meetings to compensate for the inability to work in-person may cause undue stress and strain on segmentors.

Likewise, structuring work and meeting environments that are not welcoming of children or pets may cause integrators to feel that they cannot be their whole selves. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution here; rather, understanding your type and the types of those around you will increase your ability to navigate personal and professional boundaries.

Let’s head to question two – how you specifically manage time and space boundaries. If you haven’t yet set a routine, it’s time to do so. Setting regular work hours as well as dedicated break times will support your ability to have clear work hours that can help you focus on productivity.

Whether you ascribe to the mantra “have laptop, will travel” or need an office with a locked door, you can signal your workplace needs by ensuring you have the appropriate materials (e.g., notepads, reference files, pen and paper) to create a more office-like environment. Getting yourself in this space — again, whether on your couch, at your kitchen table or in an office — will support your transition to focus on work in your home environment.

Now let’s turn to our final question, which focused on recovery. Before we talk strategies, remember that recovery matters: Taking time to recover from work helps us avoid burnout and increase productivity. If you answered “yes” to (a) yes, I multitask, or (b) yes, I’m “shoulding” myself to periods without rest, you have room to improve your recovery.

It’s important to fully engage in recovery activities. Turns out, multitasking isn’t a ‘thing.’ The best ‘multitaskers’ are actually just good at switching from task to task at a rapid pace. So, watching TV and sending emails doesn’t quite count as recovery. Although distractions may help you plow through the work you have been avoiding, they are not a recovery strategy.

Instead, engaging in any of the activities below separately, or even combined, can help boost your recovery from work [1]:

  • Mastery: learning something new, cooking
  • Helping others: childcare, housework
  • Physical: sports, dancing, walking
  • Social: talking or meeting with others
  • Low-Effort: watching TV, taking a bath

So what’s the “take home” here? We can improve our ability to work remotely by understanding our work styles and setting more firm space, time and recovery boundaries. Using some of the quick strategies above will help you be more effective and less stressed.

As a final note, the post date of this article — May 7, 2020 — marks day 56 that my family has been observing stay-at-home orders. Both my husband and I work, and we have three young children. Although we are grateful we are able to continue to work from home, I will say that the past 50+ days have been a challenge. I’m looking forward to applying these ideas to improve my work from home boundaries. I encourage you to comment below with your insights and strategies!

References

[1] Activity list excerpted from Dr. Steffanie Wilk’s “Setting Work-Life Boundaries” webinar on 5 May 2020

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4 Comments

June 8, 2020 at 8:25 am
Gwynn

This is excellent! Thank you for sharing.

June 8, 2020 at 11:53 am
Jamila

Thank you for this post. I've shared it with my co-workers in the hope that it may help others as it helped me!

June 8, 2020 at 5:06 pm
Carina

Thanks for the info and helpful tips!

June 10, 2020 at 11:20 am
M. Susie Whittington

Thank you for sharing, Sarah! I am not good at any of the above :)...but trying!!!
Susie

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.