Even before the global pandemic, most of us found it difficult to “switch off” at 5pm. Add in a national lockdown, a mass switch to homeworking, and an inbox that won’t stop pinging, and it can be nearly impossible to really “leave work at the office”.
As with all major changes, remote working has divided opinion and has its benefits and drawbacks, but the majority of legal workers say working from home has improved their work-life balance, and almost half are “dreading going back to the workplace”. Productivity seems to have increased too – a study by researchers at Cardiff University and the University of Southampton show that productivity among the majority of those working from home during lockdown remained stable or even improved, compared to six months before.
But what if you find yourself answering emails at midnight, and being unable to switch your work worries off at the end of the day? We’ve pulled together some top tips to help you achieve a better work life balance:
It’s important to communicate to your colleagues exactly when you’re available and when you’re not. Just because we are all physically at home, it doesn’t mean you should feel obliged to respond to emails that come in at all hours. The NHS suggest stopping work at your usual time: “Shut down, stop checking emails and focus on your home life. And at the end of the day, try to get to bed at your usual time.”
Make a dedicated workspace
Try to be mindful of where you are working – whilst we don’t all have the luxury of a home office, it’s important to try to work in a room that you’re unlikely to spend the rest of the evening in. The Huffington Post suggest trying to avoid working in your bedroom however, as “it’s good sleep hygiene to only use your bedroom for sleeping – that way your body knows it’s time to switch off when you’re in there”.
Socialise with your colleagues virtually
Working from home can be a very isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Try chatting to colleagues using Teams, Skype, Zoom, text or however your organisation communicates. You can make the most of video-conferencing services to have that face-to-face connection. “If you usually ask your coworkers about their weekends, keep that up. If you’d usually comment to them about a specific topic, reach out. These little interactions go a long way”, according to The Muse.
Keep up your routine
Productivity experts agree on the importance of routines in keeping yourself healthy and happy whilst working from home. Planning in some time to exercise and get outdoors whilst it’s daylight during winter will help to keep you motivated and productive – plus, nobody gets their best, most creative ideas whilst sitting staring at their screen! “Having a clear routine can not only help us to be more productive, but also support us to cope with change, to form healthy habits and to manage our stress levels”, according to Reed Wellbeing.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to be extra productive
It’s completely natural to want to use any extra time you get back from not having to commute to be extra productive. But it is equally important to remember you are living through a pandemic and dealing with the pressures and stress that come along with it. You deserve a break. “While it can be beneficial to your mental health to find ways to be productive, feel accomplished and work hard, it is also important to allow yourself some time to adjust and to relax", says Aimey Sherwood, from the Diversity & Inclusion team at the Law Society.
If you need any more support or career advice, check out our resources: