As a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many people have found themselves working from home for the first time. While teleworking can offer many benefits, it can also pose unique challenges. Consider these tips for maintaining work-life balance and avoiding professional isolation.
Before the pandemic, research suggested that teleworking can increase employees' job satisfaction and commitment to an organization and even slightly improve their performance at work. Teleworking can also reduce exhaustion and work-related stress, possibly due to a reduced commute or more-flexible hours. Other benefits include a reduction in commuting costs and more freedom to work independently.
However, teleworking has always had drawbacks, including social and professional isolation, decreased information sharing opportunities, and difficulty separating work and personal time. The lack of a physical separation between these two worlds can cause family obligations to intrude on work and work obligations to bleed into family time. This can cause teleworkers to work extra hours to prove themselves, resulting in burnout. The ability to be constantly connected to work through a variety of technologies also can cause employees to feel like they are always on or unable to unplug at the end of the day.
Teleworking as a result of the pandemic might pose extra challenges.
Those new to working from home likely aren't used to being isolated from co-workers and might not have a home office or area conducive to doing work. With other family members also potentially at home, including children or a partner, avoiding distractions and interruptions might be next to impossible. To find privacy, employees could find themselves in the awkward position of conducting meetings from their bedrooms or kitchens. And getting virtual meeting technology to work properly isn't always easy. These changes can cause anxiety, stress and frustration.
The biggest challenge of working from home might be the lack of in-person collaboration with colleagues. Teleworkers don't get to see their managers, staff or team members in the hallway or at the watercooler. As a result, regular contact through email, phone calls and virtual meetings is crucial. You might make time at the start of meetings specifically for small talk to give people time to interact.
Managers might consider having a regular five-minute check-in with each staff member, even if there is no pressing business to discuss. For colleagues, consider scheduling virtual lunch and coffee meetings to catch up on each other's projects and maintain your relationships. Online communication platforms also can help keep you connected throughout the day.
The key to work-life balance as a teleworker is being able to set boundaries — both for your work and personal obligations. To get started:
Working from home requires patience, creativity and persistence. Keep experimenting to figure out what works best for you during this uncertain period.