It’s been said that everything in life can be related to a Seinfeld episode. So when pondering the effects of the hybrid office/home work model so many companies are utilizing today, employees can be forgiven for throwing up their hands in the air and occasionally exclaiming, “My worlds are colliding!”
It’s true: The work/home life balance we once took for granted has drastically changed over the past two years, and it’s probably never reverting to the way it once was. Today, we’re looking at tips to improve work/life balance now that those two worlds are intersecting at a much more frequent rate.
Here are four tips for achieving “serenity now”—and throughout 2023—in your hybrid work/life environment.
Set Clear Boundaries around Work
According to one study, 66 percent of full-time employees in America feel they do not have a work/life balance, and 60 percent blame their bosses. But to make the situation work for both employers and employees, key strategies should be in place.
One is to set distinct work boundaries. Have hours typically designated for work and clearly communicate which days you’ll be in the office and which days you’ll be working from home. Stay focused on work during those hours you’ve set aside to do so.
It’s also just as important to diligently clock out at the appropriate time and turn all your focus to family, home, and your own well-being when the working day is done.
It also helps to have a dedicated workspace where you can avoid most interruptions and frequent distractions of daily household life. One, hopefully, which doesn’t involve building a hidden sleeping area under your desk.
Schedule and Enjoy Breaks
Of course, working in an office is not without its own series of distractions. In fact, a study by Udemy Research in 2018 found that nearly 70 percent of workers felt distracted in the office. Who can blame them? In the office, you have your close talkers, your low talkers, your high talkers, your classic over-sharers, and possibly even colleagues that sound surprisingly similar to a cat lapping up milk while they’re finishing off a container of yogurt at their desk.
Moments like these offer a perfect excuse to chat up a coworker down the hall or gather around the espresso machine and share the latest viral TikTok video.
By the same token, it’s also important to take a few well-timed mental breaks when working from home. Sidle up to a family member and offer them a Tic Tac. Switch the laundry to the dryer (the timer serves as a great reminder!). Snuggle with a baby—preferably your own—before handing him or her off. Go for a quick 15-minute walk around the block and pick up your mail upon re-entry. My favorite go-to is to call out to Alexa for a favorite song. Why, “Desperado” by the Eagles is playing right now—a clear signal to family members that anyone attempting an interruption is liable to be shushed. Don’t forget to take actual lunch breaks, too.
Replace Commute with Other Work-Prep Activity
Anyone getting a tankful of gas these days recognizes one immediate benefit to diminished commuting. In addition to the sheer costs involved, just think of all the time saved on days you’re scheduled to work from home—especially when braving the combo challenge of snowy weather and Utah drivers in weeks like this one.
The question is, how are you replacing that drive time? Certainly, some productive morning meeting prep work used to be mentally accomplished during times stalled in traffic on the freeway. Replace that time in the car with increased focus at the breakfast table instead, plotting out your day. Or you can use that time to walk your kids to school, watch the morning news, or pull up the morning newspaper on your smartphone. If you really miss driving that much, take a quick ride over to your local coffee or bagel shop before logging in for that little slice of your routine.
Allow for Some Flexibility
Give yourself some grace when it comes to adapting to a hybrid work environment. Realize there will be days when your dog will creep in on your Zoom call, or the moderator may take a few moments to comment on your home office wall decor during your morning group work hangout. Sometimes a neighbor might stop by to drop something off but want to chat for 30 minutes. Your internet or even power at the house might go out right as you’re on deadline. There also might be days when you would rather park yourself at the nearest coffee shop for the afternoon to enjoy some ambient chatter. By allowing for some flexibility, you will be better able to cope when things don’t go smoothly.
When it comes right down to it, the hybrid work environment offers the best of both worlds for companies and employees. PwC released a study in 2021 and—yada, yada, yada—it revealed that 83 percent of employers favor a schedule offering both remote and office work. Recognizing that every day potentially offers a new and different challenge, these tips will help keep your hybrid schedule productive.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.