Flexibility: How to Encourage Balance while Working from Home

In a recent poll on our LinkedIn page of over 1,000 people on working from home just 15% of people stated they preferred an office environment over working from home.

Most of us who are still working have been working remotely for over 3 months. A situation none of us could have predicted.

For some, this has meant no morning commute and a boost in work-life balance, but for others, it has caused a variety of unavoidable issues. These can include childcare, unsuitable working conditions at home, noise levels and distractions and a struggle to differentiate work and home once 5:30 hits.

For example, a CSO report from May on the impact of COVID stated that:

  • Almost a quarter (24%) of 35-44 years olds have childcare issues
  • Almost a quarter of the population aged 15 years+ are feeling lonely, with older and younger people feeling this the most
  • Those whose employment has been impacted, 34% have started remote working from home, 12% have increased their number of hours remote working from home and 23% have seen a change in their work hours

These figures are slightly dated now as restrictions have eased but the issues for many remain the same. Throughout the COVID pandemic flexibility has been and will continue to be invaluable to address these issues. Flexibility in work hours or scheduling help to ensure employees can work productively while managing families or other needs.

However, sometimes it’s hard to know when an employee is nearing burnout or struggling to reach the right balance their work and personal life. How can we as employees notice these signs and step in before the situation escalates and work and employee’s wellness suffer?

Noticing when employees are stressed working from home

Be conscious of your team members differing needs, particularly if you manage a larger team. Have regular video calls to ascertain mood and to get a feeling for your employee’s wellbeing.

Contact team members who you think may require extra support or guidelines and make it clear that you are there to advise.

In a recent interview on how to avoid burnout when working from home with psychology expert Davina, she listed some common signs of burnout including “feeling confused, stressed, irritable or drained of energy.”

If you notice employees, who in a normal sense wouldn’t, are displaying any of these behaviours be sure to intervene.

Meanwhile, don’t make assumptions – team members without children may have similar challenges in caring for a family member or a complex living situation.

Be mindful of younger employees who might share a home with roommates or parents, employees with disabilities, employees with carer needs, for example, a parent or elderly family member, single parents and parents with children with special needs.

Employees who normally thrive in an office environment and love the social aspect of work are another group to be conscious of as they may feel isolated and demotivated.

Managing people remotely & avoiding work from home burnout

Lauren Redmond, who manages our Office Support & Marketing recruitment teams, shares her insights on how to ensure employees maintain a good work-life balance remotely…

With the meshing of work, childcare, homeschooling, caring for elderly family members all rolling into one it is an understatement to say that employees have really needed flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Lauren continues… “What I found amazing is that the urge to continue to work and deliver to the best of their ability has never been so strong, whether that is working a staggered day of 2 hours slots with breaks or working from 7 am to 12 and logging back in when the kids go to bed.

The reality has been the work has been completed with even greater effect and employees feel like they’re listened to and cared for. For so long we have talked about that infamous work-life balance and now we have been forced to really integrate into our lives and our workplaces.”

As Lauren mentions shift work and adjusted working hours can be good solutions for employees who need more flexibility.

If an employee is struggling, speak to them about it ascertain the root of the problem (for example their partner might work the same hours and so neither parent is free to mind the kids.) A good solution here could be adjusted working hours. Whatever the solution make sure expectations are clear and be sure to check in and see if the new arrangement is viable.

Again, video calls or a regular phone call can be invaluable and much more effective than an email in these cases too. Video or phone calls allow you to gauge a better sense of overall wellbeing through tone of voice and body language.

A lot can be lost in translation via email or IM whereas a lot can be achieved on a quick call. Make these calls informal and less about work to get an authentic read of your employee.

Working from home tips to keep a good balance

Working from home every day alongside family members or friends can be challenging. To recreate a ‘normal’ working environment and maintain a good work-life balance advise your team to:

  • Maintain a routine: Keeping a set routine will help maintain motivation. Advise team members to set up a designated workspace/home office if possible and to take a lunch break, as they would in an office setting. If it’s not possible for them to have a proper workspace, make sure to keep them up to date on return to work plans.
  • Stay connected: Working alone at home can be isolating. It’s essential to maintain face to face communication with colleagues and clients from a collaborative and social point of view. Schedule regular calls or video chats and don’t rely on email where misunderstandings can happen. Appear online via your group email/chat program so your colleagues know you’re available.
  • Focus on results: Ensure all team members know what their priorities and goals are each day. Quality of work and impactful results, rather than quantity of tasks or time spent ‘active’, should be encouraged.

Working from home has been embraced, but it is not perfect. It’s likely most of your employees will struggle at some point and it’s important to be there for them when they do.

If you’d like more advice and insights on how to managing remote teams download our COVID-19 Employer Guide here. You can also reach out to one of our consultants, they’d be happy to advise.