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The new balancing act between life and work

Koos
Oda Landsman

Reading time
8 min read

Date
Jul 13, 2020

Five elements that are key when balancing your professional and personal life.

Blog 1/3 in the series “The new remote employee experience”

You’re probably reading this blog at home, at a time you’d usually be at work. Your life has changed drastically, maybe with some new benefits but definitely with new challenges. 

Now more than ever, it is important for employers to think about how they can continue to support their employees. It is crucial to keep everyone energized and motivated. Simply creating a nice place to work from home for your employees isn’t enough. You need more.

As your employees are probably the ones helping your organisation through these times, we did some research. The aim is to help you discover what it is that employees need to create this new balance between life and work. 

We asked thirteen people to share their experiences concerning their new remote working situation. These people varied in age, occupation and home circumstances. From a sports instructor and communication advisor, to manager of a housing cooperative and (of course) a service designer. You name it! We asked them about their new routine, their ups and downs throughout the day, and what helps them stay motivated and efficient.

 

We’re publishing three blogs to discuss our findings:

You’re currently reading the first one:
five elements that are key when balancing your professional and personal life

Still to follow:
Blog 2. How working from home influences our needs and work experience
Blog 3. Embracing the change

The inevitable fading borders between work and life

Not surprisingly, working from home brings us many challenges. Not only do we have to find out how to do our work remotely, we are also faced with the inevitable fading borders between work and life. We used to go out of our house and literally change our physical environment to do our work. This way, we created a clear difference between family time and work time. As this physical space is blending (sometimes into a nice blend of total chaos), our mental space is too. When you are stuck in one physical space, it’s difficult to separate both worlds and keep focus on what you’re doing.

We are now responsible to create a new balance for ourselves, where we can separate those two worlds. For some of us (read: parents) this is a more challenging task than for others. From our interviews, we selected five tips to help you in this new balancing act between life and work.

1. Turn your work mindset “on” and “off”

We do no longer have to spend time commuting. F*cking finally! Many see this as an advantage, as you suddenly have a few more hours in every day. Suddenly you must be able to tick off all of your to do’s, like doing chores around the house, right?

However, commuting can be great to get your mindset ready for work. Now our office area and private area have become one, it can be difficult to get into the right mindset. Many of us face challenges that go far beyond a non-ergonomic workplace, as we are sharing our workplace with kids, partners, pets and roommates. One tip we got, was to start your day with a short walk outside. A great way to trick your mind and get your mindset ready for work!

Of course, this also applies for switching your work mindset off. It can be difficult to close your laptop, tell yourself that your workday is over and indulge in relaxation. Being responsible for your own time management sometimes results in working more hours than you used to. A real closure of the day and week is key. It creates a clear separation between your professional and personal life. As an employer, you have to keep an eye on your employees. Check if they’re able to do this. Especially as you cannot see them directly now.

2. Stay active and exercise!

Before being stuck at home, your commute might have been your daily exercise. In this case, you no longer have a specific reason to exercise anymore. Since almost all sport facilities are closed, it becomes really easy to just skip your weekly exercise. Trust me, I know. We spoke to some people who barely found themselves moving from the couch, with their ‘fitness’ tracker only registering three hundred steps a day. When they finish work, the kids are screaming to get your attention, so they’re glad when they can finally relax on the sofa. Recognize this?

Luckily, we also spoke to people who made full use of the time they would normally spend on their commute. They expressed a bigger drive to exercise, more than ever before. Getting your weekly dose of exercise is important to stay productive and it helps you to clear your mind. Research has actually shown that exercising is one of the things that contributes most to our emotional wellbeing in these circumstances. Again, helping you to balance your professional and personal life. 

3. Keep your focus

Before Covid-19, the media extensively discussed the increasing dissatisfaction that employees encounter with large, open plan offices (or in Dutch the very well known ‘kantoortuin’ or office garden). Some of the people we spoke to agreed that they are more focussed on their work, having less people around them. Others experienced more difficulties with concentrating, because they get distracted by surrounding factors such ‘children’, the overload of digital communication and the loss of social control. Try to understand your pitfalls and minimize those distractions. Force yourself to block distracting websites to keep focus. Create a clear schedule, consistently block time (especially individual tasks) so you learn your colleagues to respect your time. And save household chores for later, don’t casually mix them into your routine.   

4. Take breaks to stay productive

Another thing that has changed, is the moments  you allow yourself to have a break. At the office, we’re used to having several coffee breaks with colleagues, that often go along with some informal chitchat. These informal and spontaneous conversations sadly do not take place that often digitally. As a result, people only take a short break to get a new coffee, or have a bathroom break. These aren’t proper breaks people! 

From our conversations, we discovered that routine helps people to stay productive. Having a good lunch break is part of this routine. Where some people normally would skip their lunch at work, they now suddenly take a proper lunch break. For others this is exactly the other way around. They were less productive at home and therefore didn’t allow themselves to have (long) breaks. To help you out, here are some nice toast recipes to spice up your lunch. This’ll make sure you will be craving to have that lunch break!

5. Maintain old bonding rituals and nurture the Mojo

Finally, we used to share moments of relaxation with our colleagues. Friday afternoon drinks, a quick “how are you” at the coffee machine or having lunch together, we still need those bonding rituals. Some of these activities have been changed into digital ones. Many of us already had ‘virtual drinks’, which mostly are considered as fun. However, conversations don’t run as smoothly with many employees in a virtual environment. Also, some of us dislike these gatherings since it means even more time spent on looking at a screen. However to nurture the Mojo, it is important to keep planning those informal digital gatherings. Add things about breakout rooms! That keeps it fun and interactive instead of 30 people trying to have 1 conversation.

What employers can do:

At Koos, we’re doing our best to put things in place and create a good work environment at home. Here are some things you can do: 

    • Provide a comfortable home working environment with the right equipment.
      Make sure everyone has access to an extra computer screen and a nice office chair – but you also need the right online tools and software. Read more about these digital collaboration tools in our previous blog.
    • Respect and support a healthy work life balance.
      Don’t expect that all employees can be fully focussed from 9 to 5. However, be strict in keeping those boundaries. Do not schedule meetings, or send Slack messages to your colleagues during lunch, in the evening or early mornings. To fully support a healthy balance, facilitate digital gym sessions to make sure everyone keeps exercising. As you can see, we have a lot of fun every Thursday, doing a 30-minute workout facilitated by Sportstudio 79.
    • Trust people, give compliments and don’t become a control freak.
      Trust your employees in that they’re doing all they can to perform their job to the best of their ability. Express your trust openly to motivate and reassure everyone.
    • Support new routines.
      Provide a clear framework for your employees to make it easy to separate their work from their private life. Create a day start by introducing morning coffees, schedule daily check outs with a project team and do a weekly reflection to check on everyone’s mojo. And of course, celebrate weekend!

These five tips, help you to keep your employee experience on track. In the end, this can help you to still be that organization people love to work for and where they love to go to (remotely) every day. 

Everyone reacts differently to this current situation. Some of us will turn themselves into real sports athletes after this crisis, others might not be so lucky and will have worked more hours than ever before. In our next blog How to fullfil work related needs, we are diving deeper into how working from home influences individual needs and shapes our work experience. We will explore our insights using a psychological tension model about work. 

Do you want to know more about employee experience?

Looking back on our first fully remote project

Preparing for the new world

Anniversary Interview – Jette

How to fulfill work-related needs?

Why design can help your company in times of crisis

How do you set up a remote user test?

When your home becomes your office

Ten years of Koos (part 2)

Ten years of Koos (part 1)

Employee Experience exceeds HR