WFH: Maintaining a Happy, Healthy Work-Life Balance
Long time no see, friends of the Syntactical blog!
In case you haven't guessed by the lack of recent blog posts, Lily and I have been a lil' bit busy this year. Just a teensy, tiny bit.
But that doesn't mean we aren't still bursting with insights to share (whether you want to hear them or not).
Since February 2020, we've been working from home. And in that time, we've picked up some tips that we'll be sharing with you in a new series all about it. But we're starting with the big one...
Here's what happens when work takes over your life: You sacrifice your physical health, you sacrifice your mental health, you sacrifice your personal relationships, and you wind up so burned out that your actual work begins to suffer, too.
I don't know about you, but that's not an appealing series of events to me.
Here are our five top tips for maintaining and respecting a work-life balance while working from home, without the natural boundary of an office and a commute to help you out...
1. Don't fall prey to mission creep
When you're in your own home, it is about a billion times easier to get distracted. We're all well aware of this fact.
Have you heard of 'mission creep'? It's a military term. It refers to "a gradual shift in objectives during the course of a military campaign, often resulting in an unplanned long-term commitment" [Oxford Languages].
In a non-military sense, it means getting off-task and off-track. And it's the bane of my life.
Picture this: I go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea at 3pm. Suddenly, it's 4pm and I'm cleaning the microwave. I have not done the work I was supposed to in the last hour.
In these moments - which are much more frequent in your own home, full of chores and laundry and things - you need to recognise mission creep and stop it in its tracks.
Stay on task, and finish your work more quickly. Finish your work more quickly, and enjoy more free time to spend it as you please (even if you do decide to spend it cleaning the aforementioned microwave).
2. Take real and regular breaks
This is especially important if you're home alone, and there's nobody to check you and say, "Hey, you've been sitting in the same position for five hours. Maybe it's time for a little break?"
Taking breaks is a really important part of building a healthy working practice, because brains get tired when you push them too hard, for too long.
Make sure your breaks are long enough, regular enough and free enough of additional screen time - particularly if your job essentially comprises of staring at a screen all day like mine.
3. Stick to your start and end times
Set yourself, if not a full schedule, a start time and an end time.
When you're freelancing, the work can be pretty hard to intricately structure, but at the very least, you can get yourself into a healthy schedule by starting and finishing at the same moments each day.
This will also help you to recognise when you've set yourself an unrealistic amount of work, and rectify this.
Seeing that you won't be able to fit the work you have on into the hours you'll be working, you can then take less on, or shift delivery timeframes and deadlines to be more realistic, or even consider expanding your business and hiring new people.
There's only one of you. Don't work yourself to the bone.
4. Separate work from play however you can
Not every home comes with enough space for an office or a dedicated office space, but if yours does, make use of it. Separate the place you work from the place that you relax or sleep, and you'll find it harder to switch off once you've exited this area.
Physical space isn't the only way to separate work from play, though, so don't fret if you don't have enough room for that.
You can also:
Turn off (and leave off) your laptop once the working day comes to an end
Wear a "work outfit" of some kind and change out of it once work is over
Decompress between work time and leisure time with some exercise, a walk or a yoga session
Get outdoors/out into the world and away from your home between work time and leisure time to simulate a commute
5. Do what feels right for you
This is, in my expert opinion after a year and a half of WFH life, the most important tip of all.
You'll see a lot of different advice online about how to manage working remotely, but not all of them will suit you or work for you.
Try things out, and try them on for size.
Does a strict routine make you feel happier and healthier, or does it feel stressful and restrictive? It's up to you!
Do you like starting work at 8am, or 8pm? The world is your oyster! (Assuming your working situation allows for this, and it won't just baffle your boss.)
Do what feels right, and remember that practice makes perfect.
Those were our five top working from home tips, and we'll leave you on this note. Fellow WFH pals: You can do it. If you're struggling right now, I promise that you'll get there in the end.
Like I've already said, it's all about finding the things that work for you, and the ways to work that make you feel most happy and well-balanced.
If you think it might help to take some things off your plate during the working day (allowing you to finish at the time you're supposed to be finishing), why not consider outsourcing your copywriting, proofreading or editing needs?
Get in touch for an obligation-free chat today.