5 Practical Ways to Promote Work-Life Balance and Avoid Burnout
More than ever before, many companies are asking their employees to work from home to remain safe and unaffected. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to capture headlines in the news and spread rapidly, employees are struggling with finding a sense of calm and stability throughout the ever-changing updates and reality that this virus has become our new normal for the time being. Although working from home has many benefits such as flexibility, increased productivity, zero-commute, and more quality time with your loved ones; on the flip side, working remotely could also make it more difficult to power off and unplug from your workday, ultimately decreasing your work-life balance.
Work-life balance, especially during uncertain times like COVID-19, is essential to employees’ growth and personal happiness and company retention. When employees are encouraged to find a positive work-life balance, they tend to be more motivated to produce great work. Remote work is a valuable tool as companies try to minimize disruptions and keep operations running as close to normal as possible. However, when people who aren’t used to telecommuting transition from working in the office to working from home, they may cling to habits and norms that don’t translate to working remotely.
The burnout risk
As a leader, it’s up to you to support employees and your company culture by creating the conditions for remote work success. There are employees who are working odd hours as opposed to their usual 9-5 working schedule just because time is expendable. But this completely messes with the work-life balance and also might affect health, which is unaffordable in times like these.
A short video from the CEO of BMW – Late Rudratej Singh states just how worrisome the work from home culture is becoming:
Here are a few ways you can help employees transition to working remotely while avoiding burnout:
- Make a schedule and start your day productively: To maximize your productivity and your workday while working remotely, it’s imperative to set a cohesive schedule for yourself to guide you through the day. Given that working from home can be more comfortable and a bit relaxing compared to being in the office, imposing a structure on your day will limit the distractions and keep you focused on the tasks at hand. In addition to crafting a specific structure for your day, curating to-do lists are helpful to ensure that you’re being productive and accomplishing what needs to be done in your role. Physically crossing tasks and projects off a to-do list can be gratifying – especially if you are questioning your productivity levels and progress. You can divide and focus your time on 3 big tasks for the day. If you’re constantly putting out fires or working on smaller tasks, you’re not going to ever be able to work on your larger goals. Whether you do this the night before or in the morning, list your three big and most important tasks for the day. These should be at the top of your to-do-list. You should base your schedule around these three tasks and eliminate all distractions.
For example, if you block out from 9 am to 11 am in your calendar to work on your first big task, then turn off your phone and all notifications from email or social media. If you don’t have an office with a door, put on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. You can follow this technique even post lockdown. You may also want to work somewhere else like a coffee shop, or a meeting room or any other free space available apart from your regular workstation.
- Take breaks: Stretch or take a walk to rest your eyes often from your computer screen in 10-15 minute intervals. To not get bogged down or overwhelmed with your workday, take some time to get up, stretch, and move around your home. Taking a break from staring at your computer screen will help you maintain productivity in the long run. The world’s most productive persons — plan their work schedules around when they’re most productive. That means if you’re a night owl, then waking up at dawn may be counterproductive. However, since most people are more productive in the morning, specifically a couple of hours after they’ve woken up, it’s not a bad idea to take the middle of the day. Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter and Medium, workouts out during the middle of the day. He explains that his focus is usually great, first thing in the morning so going to the gym first is a trade-off of very productive time. Once you recognize your most productive hours, it is easy to plan your time and take breaks accordingly so you don’t end up wasting your most productive time of the day. Thanks to our natural circadian rhythm, we all tend to experience afternoon brain fog. This is a good time to take a break and check-in with yourself on the day’s progress. You can also spend time on soft tasks like returning calls and attending meetings. Also make it a point that you do not multitask as it taxes your brain and divulges your focus, making your brain work in overdrive.
You can also try the 52-17 rule 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of rest. Even if you don’t work for 52 minutes exactly, the idea is that you need breaks to recharge, refocus, and avoid burnout.
- Plan your free time: The idea of scheduling free time may seem to contradict the very nature of “free time”, but trust us, it’s an idea worth exploring! Especially during the lockdown to avoid burning out. We seem to run from one thing to another: from work to dinner prep, to folding the washed clothes, to haranguing the kids into bed, to falling asleep. If you don’t plan your free time while working from home, you run the risk of filling your spare hours with endless tasks or wasting the time on things you have little interest in. This will eventually make you feel like you did nothing and burnout becomes inevitable. It is easy to waste time if you don’t have a plan. In this case, you might find yourself spending blank hours mouldering away on a couch watching a television show you don’t really like. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying couch time, as long as that is how you want to spend your free time, rather than just what you do because you can’t think of anything else. If the latter is the case, couch time can sap you of energy and leave you feeling slightly cheated. Having a plan for activities (relaxing, stimulating or productive) you want to do in your free time can help you enjoy your work-free hours more thoroughly. With the current work situation, weekends and weekdays seem to mesh in nature! Having a block of free time on the weekdays too and a plan for how you will spend it will give you something to look forward to when your day gets stressful. The beauty of working from home is it truly is what you make of it. Get creative during your free time. Dedicate your time to self-care or a light stretch, yoga exercise, eating something healthy, a call with your therapist or a close friend, or guided breathing.
- Prioritize wellness: Social distancing measures put in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak, mean that many of us are suddenly working from home for an indefinite amount of time. This can be a difficult adjustment that could impact our work productivity as well as our health and wellness. That’s why it is now more important than ever to prioritize our physical, mental and emotional health by practicing healthy habits at home.
Working from home will naturally make some employees go stir crazy. Understandably, overall anxiety is also currently at a high for many people. Encourage employees to make time for their health:
- Simply taking a walk can help employees feel healthier and happier.
- You might also suggest they build time into their schedules for a fitness class or workout during their day.
- You could also find ways to incentivize mental health activities during this stressful and uncertain time.
- Indulge employees in fitness activities and wellness programs for their employees as a wellness initiative and incentivize the winners.
Consider this 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count – Wellness Challenge. It is centered around the common message of 5-2-1-0:
- 5 or more fruits or vegetables
- 2 hours or less of recreational screen time
- 1 hour or more of physical activity
- 0 sugary drinks – drink more water!
Offices and workplaces all over the world are taking wellness very seriously. At Great Place to Work every employee gets a pop up in their calendars every Wednesday afternoon. It’s a reminder for everyone to get up from their desk to move, whether by walking, running or dancing.
- Create a workspace that works: Creating an effective workspace is essential if you want to stay on track and get things done. Make it a place where you’ll enjoy spending time. However, you also need to be clear that it’s a place of work. A few “office” touches might encourage you to be more productive – but you can still personalize your workspace, with fun posters or family photos. Check that you can sit comfortably. If not, you’ll likely find plenty of excuses to get up and go somewhere else! The other important piece of equipment is a door that you can close! It’s almost impossible to work effectively at home if there are other people nearby. So, if you have the available space, be assertive and shut out potential distractions. At the very least, arrange your work area so that distractions aren’t in your line of view – including any partner who’s also working from home!
Learn more about the importance of creating an ideal workspace in our article: HOW TO KEEP YOUR TEAM MOTIVATED WHILE WORKING REMOTELY
Concerned about how the coronavirus impacts your workplace? We are, too! But we’ve got you covered. Don’t compromise on employee engagement and welfare just because we are under lockdown. Watch Let’s Buzzz in action to know more!