How can you improve your work-life balance during remote work? As many employees suddenly find themselves working from home due to COVID-19, personal and work lives are blurring together. Daily patterns have been disrupted and stress is on the rise. Patterns have to be reset to help employees achieve work-life balance while working from home.
I believe we need to achieve work-life balance to make sure we keep all of our life plates spinning. It’s an opportunity to examine our priorities and intentions in a world where many are working longer hours with increased responsibilities at home and work. We’re supposed to create this perfect world of managing our life and work, but in reality, it’s challenging to achieve.
As a Health Coach, I help Hinge Health participants address chronic back and joint pain while also balancing multiple work and personal activities. Research has shown stress and mental health are often a driver of chronic back or joint pain. As a result, getting to the bottom of your stress is a key strategy to helping alleviate chronic back or joint pain.
Juan, a Hinge Health participant I work with, is married with two small children. Due to COVID-19, both he and his wife started working from home, while also juggling caring for their two young children. Juan was experiencing chronic knee pain and this kind of stress was only making his pain worse. I worked together with Juan to identify how he could manage his pain and stress while working from home with this entire family. He and his wife sat down and went through their work schedules to carve out “work time” and “self-care time.” Specifically, they both wanted to build in time for regular exercise into their lives (including prioritizing Juan’s Hinge Health exercise therapy)--because that was something that made them feel good both mentally and physically.
Based on this discussion with Juan, I came up with 4 actionable strategies to help discover what work-life balance means to you and how to take action each day to create realistic boundaries.
Step 1. Make a list of the top activities that make you feel your best
Work-life balance is a buzzword thrown around in the working world, but what does it actually mean to you? The first step is to ask yourself: What are my most meaningful activities outside of work time that make me feel your best? Maybe it’s exercise, spending time with family, reading a book, hiking in nature, or meditation. Whatever it is, write down the top 3-5 activities that make you feel energized and happy. This self-reflection can help you identify your “non-negotiables” or the things that need to be prioritized and included in your day to enable you to be your “best” in both work and personal life.
For me, the top three things that make me feel energized and productive are movement, sleeping well, and spending time with my family. I break these areas into specific actions for me each day: 30 minutes of movement, small breaks throughout the day, being fully present with my family in the evenings, and bedtime at 9:30 pm. These are my “non-negotiables” and have to be part of my daily life to make my life feel balanced and whole.
Making this list ensures you are working towards a set of activities that are actually meaningful to you. It will also enable you to develop tangible actions to integrate these specific activities into your daily life.
Step 2. Prioritize “well-being time” in your schedule
Now you have your list of what makes you feel good, ask yourself: How often are you doing the things you love? Work, even if it gives you joy, shouldn’t be the only thing you do each day. It’s also not just about shutting off work but living the life you want. It’s not about doing chores either (yes, those have to get done too), but doing the things you love. Prioritizing these meaningful activities may ultimately help you reduce burnout and stress.
Make sure you schedule your list of meaningful activities into your day. Don’t let work take over your entire day. When it comes to making our “to-do list” we tend to prioritize work or chores, instead of prioritizing our health and well-being. When I ask my Hinge Health participants where they would put health and well-being on their list of priorities, I often hear #10 when it really should be in your top 3. But where can you fit in time to do those things that make you feel the best? If dinner with your family is your non-negotiable then set aside that time each day or if taking a walk at lunch makes you feel good physically and mentally, then block off that time on your calendar.
If you are fairly new to working from home, it’s also important to schedule what I call “transition time.” Previously, your commute used to be your transition time marking the boundaries between your work and personal life. I recommend resetting these patterns by designating a transition activity to officially “end your workday.” This might be doing yoga, cleaning up your desk, taking a virtual exercise class, or going outside for a walk.
Step 3. Practice and experiment with what works
Creating balance in your life isn’t a one and done task. It takes daily commitment to find the path that both honors your work commitments and your personal life. If you prioritize doing your meaningful activities, whether it’s dinner with your family or yoga, you may discover it’s not the end of the world to push a less urgent work task to the next day. In fact, you’ll be more productive and produce better quality work if you feel refreshed and happy.
To build in time in your daily schedule, I suggest starting small and making it easy. You don’t need to overhaul your life to create better balance. Just do a little bit better each day. Once you identify your meaningful activities, think of the smallest task you need to get started. For example, if movement is important to you, schedule a short walk at lunch or at the end of the day into your calendar. Make sure your hiking shoes are by the door to create triggers and reminders of the activity. Attach your activity to your daily routine like turning off your computer and then putting on your work clothes. You’ll find out it’s easier to take the next step if you create a routine.
Be willing to experiment. If it doesn’t work, try something else and keep practicing until you find something that sticks. Finally, accept imperfections as even the best-laid plans have detours. Give yourself permission to be flexible and make micro-adjustments to your plan when necessary.
Step 4. Ask for help.
We are social creatures yet for some reason, we strive to solve key challenges on our own--thinking we’ll earn some kind of badge of honor that doesn’t exist. In my experience, people love to help others when they can. Look at your work task list and prioritize what’s important. Don’t try and do everything on your list. Ask for help from a colleague if you are feeling overwhelmed and your list feels unattainable for one person in a single day. It’s also important to talk to your manager and ask them to help prioritize what’s the most critical for you to accomplish first and what can be put on the back burner.
Bonus Tip: Learn when to take a pause
Finally, learn when to take a pause. We are not designed to go 100 miles per hour every day. Sense when you really need a break and take it. Giving yourself time to rejuvenate means you’ll be more productive and creative at work than if you keep pushing through tired and exhausted. Even in the time of COVID-19, a staycation may be exactly what you need to refresh.
Through sensor-guided exercise therapy and remote 1-on-1 coaching, Hinge Health offers a holistic approach to reducing chronic back and joint pain. To learn more how the three pillars of exercise therapy, education, and behavioral health drive long-term outcomes, request a demo below.
About the Author
Jess Christensen is a Board Certified Health Coach at Hinge Health with a degree in Nutrition Science. She has 16 years of experience helping others live better and has been balancing working from home for the last 8 years. In her off time, you would likely find her outside adventuring with her husband, taking care of her furry animals, and most recently attempting to grow her first vegetable garden.