A global pandemic did not invent working from home, but it certainly was the proof of concept that was needed to push the popularity of what was once considered a workplace perk. Working from home (WFH) is here to stay but is the reality of working remotely as great as we all imagined?

Based on figures from the NZ household labour force survey, more than 40% of employed people did at least some of their work from home during lockdown in 2020, with almost half of this number doing so for the first time.

While there are many positives to working from home – eliminates commute time, enables greater flexibility and autonomy, and for some it can boost wellbeing, productivity, and motivation – there are other unintended consequences that individuals and employers need to consider. More specifically, the lack of a clear delineation between work and home, and the challenges associated with the physical absence of your colleagues.

Here are some working from home strategies that just might help you maintain work life balance.

Organise your space

We have all heard this but creating a dedicated workspace that allows you to work comfortably and productively, while also letting you “leave” at the end of the workday, is a top strategy for effective remote working. It could mean decluttering an existing space in your home or even taking advantage of communal office spaces, like for example your local library (working from home can just mean not working from your office). In fact, not using your laptop for leisure activities can help reduce work “out of hours” as you don’t have access to work emails/files.

Commit to a schedule

Just like working in an office, having a start/finish time is key – even if that means you never totally switch off when having devices within reach. And this includes taking regular breaks. When you are working from home and have your workspace set up, it is just that little bit easier to slip back into work mode when your computer is sitting in close proximity. Before you know it, you’ll be finishing off that report while cooking dinner or interrupting family time while polishing that presentation. Simple tips like shutting down your PC or closing the door to your office, can give you that psychological break from work mode.

Think about your team

While you will never replicate the in-office experience, there are things you can do beyond email that will improve communication and collaboration with your colleagues and wider team. You might feel like you are going overboard at first, but in the absence of face-to-face it really is important to maintain effective communication. Regardless of your platform of choice – Teams, Slack, Zoom – try to keep your camera on and where practical use screen sharing. Do whatever it takes to maintain relationships while also considering the preferences of your team. There may just be some good habits formed during lockdown that you could take back to the office, like not disturbing colleagues with questions just because they are sitting nearby.

Find a friend

If you are experiencing extended remote working, you may start to miss the social interaction found in a workplace – even if you thought the absence of distractions was a benefit to WFH. This extends not just to collaboration on projects but the mental wellbeing and stimulation you receive from simple workplace conversations and down time. Tips like using video call instead of emails/text or identifying a work colleague who you know you can connect with for a simple chat, may just help.

Dress for work

If you are struggling to feel productive while WFH, another top tip is to dress for work and “trick” your brain into switching into work mode. It also helps with switching off at the end of the day, by physically changing out of your work attire. For some people, dressing too casually can make them less focused and alert – clothes do have a strong psychological impact on motivation. It’s also a useful tip in case you have an unexpected video call during the workday.

Just like working in an office, achieving a healthy work life balance when working remotely requires you to establish clear boundaries. It is important to recognise this and put some strategies in place before falling into bad habits that are hard to break.

The Decipher Team

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