In a time where our work lives and personal lives are so much more integrated, finding a healthy balance of the two is more important than ever...
Remote working may have been rather rare a decade or so ago, however with advances in teleconferencing and telework technology and events of the past couple of years making working from home a necessity for many of us, it is now not only commonplace but for some even much preferred. FlexJobs’ 10th Annual Survey (conducted between July and August 2021) reported that 58% of respondents are keen to be full-time remote employees, while 39% want a hybrid work environment - That is a whopping 97% of workers who prefer some form of remote work. Many companies have been seeing the benefits of remote work, coming to realise that physically being at the office full-time isn’t necessary to produce successful outcomes. As a result, they have been inspired to adopt hybrid work models long term - Microsoft’s Work Trend Index (published in March 2021) found that 66% of employers around the world are redesigning their workplaces to accommodate hybrid work arrangements and a Mercer study in May 2021 found that up to 70% of companies were planning to adopt this hybrid model. Many well established brands have already made the switch, including Adobe, Spotify, and Twitter.
There are a whole lot of benefits to the WFH life and many businesses have found they can thrive even with completely remote teams. However, it can also be difficult as individuals to adapt to this modern way of living as working from home brings new challenges to the juggling of our work life and our personal life. 76% of employees surveyed by Flexjobs stated that workplace stress affects their mental health. 65% of remote workers also reported that they work more hours than they had been while working in the office. Many employees often feel overwhelmed by their workload and can forget to make time for themselves or disconnect from their computer at the end of the work day.
When our work-life balance falls out of whack, we are more likely to find ourselves feeling anxious, burnt out and disengaged, feeling weak or pained, falling sick more frequently and our relationships (both personal and work related) can become more strained too. This not only negatively impacts our mental and physical wellbeing but also impacts our work itself - preventing us from being able to fully focus, operate at our full productivity and feel inspired and motivated in the work we do.
So how do we find and keep a healthy balance?
Each workplace is different and each person within that workplace is different, therefore figuring out the perfect balance for each of us can take some self-reflection, trial and error and time to get just right. Companies can support employees by taking steps such as allowing more flexibility during the workday, offering mental health days, encouraging and allowing employees to take undisturbed time off and offering better health insurance. However it is also vital for each individual to take their health and happiness into their own hands and there are some universally beneficial and simple ways to enhance your all round wellbeing while working at home.
Here are a few of my favourite tips:
Set up the ideal workspace - Our environment can drastically impact our mood, physical health, productivity and efficiency. This is why it is so important to create a workspace that not only feels comfortable but also supports us and the business that we do. Consider natural lighting - boosting us with the “sunshine vitamin” Vitamin D, bringing in oxygenating plants - purifying the air around us and influencing positive feels, uplifting aromas - finding scents to fit the vibe throughout the day, ergonomic furniture and equipment - to support your body and prevent injuries, and of course, keeping an organised and tidy workspace - cleanliness can help drive motivation and boost morale.
Set firm boundaries - In order to continue feeling focused and happy while working from home (or anywhere) it's important for us to set our boundaries and stick to them. Some helpful ways to do this are to make sure you are taking your breaks and using them wisely - replace scrolling on your phone for a walk around the block. And remind yourself to fully switch off when your work day is complete, step away from your workspace, allow yourself to mentally clock out and be present in your personal life.
Get dressed for the day - Prepping for your day is a signal to your brain that it's not a weekend, and you're not sick. You don't necessarily need to be in a full work outfit; you can still keep it casual - that's one of the perks of working from home, but separating your work clothes from your home clothes (even if these are both leisurewear) really helps our minds to differentiate between work life and home life. There's a perception that working from home is a daylong pyjama fest but the simple act of getting ready is a vital part of self-care and can help us transition into work more efficiently.
Create your own mini commute - Though not having to commute is a big WFH benefit, a mini commute can also be just what we need to get the day started on the right (or left) foot. Consider taking a walk around the block before and after work, taking time to listen to your music or a podcast while getting in some exercise and fresh air, maybe even stop by your local cafe to pick up your usual favourites and support a small business while you’re at it. When you arrive back at your front door, enter with the mindset that you are stepping into the office for the day or later arriving home after a productive workday.
Feed your mind - Food isn’t just fuel for the body; it feeds our minds, affects our moods and boosts our overall health and well-being. While it’s true that we are what we eat, it’s also true that we work how we eat. The wrong foods can make us feel sluggish, lethargic and glum, whereas getting in the right foods can rev up our energy levels and lift our spirits. When we eat well, we are more prepared to work well too. Practice eating slowly and mindfully, without distraction, focusing on fresh, whole foods, engaging your senses and finding gratitude as you enjoy one of life’s most wonderful pleasures. Mindful eating has a hugely beneficial impact on our minds and bodies as well as the environment.
Movement and breathwork - Mobility is incredibly important for our long term health and wellbeing. Incorporating some stretches and body movement into the work day can activate your parasympathetic nervous system and increase blood flow to your muscles, relieve stress and tension, release endorphins, dopamine and serotonin (our’ happy hormones’) and can increase overall productivity. Even taking just a few minutes to practice stretches at your desk regularly can have a hugely positive impact on the mind and body. Similarly, breathwork helps us to clear the physical and emotional obstacles in our body with a hugely positive impact on our central nervous system. Breathwork is a great way to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, find balance in our emotional health, enhance our self-awareness and even support our digestion among many other benefits. By consciously practicing breathing exercises, we allow our minds to become more calm and clear, beneficial to both our quality of work and working relationships as well as our overall mental, physical and emotional wellbeing and personal relationships.
Taking care of our wellbeing in any workplace environment is vital for both our own quality of life and also our job satisfaction. Prioritising our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing and finding ways to maintain taking better care of ourselves long term is key to remaining productive, motivated and living an all round happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. So let’s ditch the toxicity of hustle and grind culture (based on lies that we must exert ourselves at 110% capacity to succeed) and instead form healthier habits and improved techniques to support our wellbeing whilst accomplishing goals in a way that aligns with our intentions.
Written for Guinea Pig Fieldwork
by Mica Francis-Angel