Management, Wellbeing

Remote leadership & well-being: #3 – Maintaining work/life boundaries

07 April 2020 by Heidi Marshall

If the conversations with our learners and HR partners are anything to go by, just getting through the last few weeks is reason enough to be proud. Uncertainty about work priorities, job security and what our teams really need from us dominate the working week. All this against a backdrop of a shift to working from home on a mass scale.

Working from home is not new to more than 1.54 million people in the UK. It’s a growing trend that has been fuelled by technological advances and the pull of more freedom, flexibility and a break from the daily commute. This figure, provided by the Office for National Statistics for their Labour Force Survey, shows a 57 per cent increase in homeworkers in the last ten years.

Yet even for those who are used to working from home, the current crisis has thrown up a host of new challenges and threats to the work/life balance that employees have worked so hard to attain. The boundaries are suddenly blurred, both physically and metaphorically.

Here are five tips that we found have been helpful to our clients. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and we hope you find something here that help you.

Tips for working from home with children, a partner or housemates

1) Agree together where you will work and the ground rules for both/all the adults to work effectively.

It’s worth discussing together where in your living space you are all going to work and the ground rules you all need to be effective. For example, if the door to my office is shut, I’m on a confidential call, so please don’t come in. Or I’ll let you know when I need quiet or when I’m taking breaks so you know when I can be interrupted.

2) Tag team the responsibility for children with a partner if you can.

If you have children at home, particularly if they are younger, it’s going to be a challenge to work and look after them. If you have a partner at home, make sure you share the responsibility so that critical work is not interrupted, for example if you have a call with a client or you need to meet a deadline.

3) Remember that you are not home schooling your children.

If you are putting the pressure on yourself to create the perfect learning experience for your children at the same time as holding down your job and leading/managing a team who need your time, energy and support, stop now!

You are not home schooling your children; the schools have closed in an emergency situation and the teachers are trying to keep them moving along, but this is not a normal situation. Keep them fed, love them, help them through what is an anxious time, keep them occupied where you can. Use the square babysitter (TV) if you need to at critical moments; there are lots of educational programmes on iPlayer if that makes you feel better.

4) Work with natural rhythms rather than against them.

Trying to fight against the natural rhythms in the household is a recipe for stress and unhappiness. Running battles with small children will make everyone miserable and won’t lead to any increase in productivity for you. Watch the natural rhythms and work with them. Ideas include scheduling client calls during nap times for very small children or allowing them to watch a movie when their energies are lower to give you some focused time on a task you need to complete.

5) Forgive yourself; this doesn’t have to be perfect.

Forgive yourself for being less than perfect right now, or even less than optimal in any of the varied roles you play. You are doing your best in challenging circumstances.

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