The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically altered working experiences and what we consider to be normal. Almost every industry has been affected and businesses were forced to scramble to find ways of operating at such a difficult time. Things have begun to improve, and we may be through the worst of the pandemic, but it has had a lingering effect.
With so many people now working remotely, it should perhaps not be surprising that some issues have arisen. One of those issues is workers struggling with their current work-life balance. It might have once been assumed that remote working would naturally create a better work-life balance but this hasn’t necessarily been the case.
Here we take a look at why this has happened, and how businesses can help their remote staff achieve a better work-life balance.
Remote working is the new normal
It might have once been assumed that once the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic was over, the idea of remote working would begin to fade, and staff would return to the office and places of work. However, it actually seems to be the case that are large number of workers are looking to make remote working a part of their ‘new normal’.
That means that businesses cannot simply assume that this is a passing phase - many staff will want to work either partly remotely, or entirely remotely. It will be important, then, to factor in ways to better manage their workers and ensure that they are able to do their job effectively. Work-life balance is a vital element of this.
Avoiding a culture of ‘always on’
It is the case that while many remote workers see a lot of benefit from being able to do their job from anywhere in the world, there is a drawback in the idea that they have to be ‘always on’. The pressure to be constantly available for conversations, emails and instant messages with your boss and colleagues can be very stressful.
“For remote workers, the line separating work from home has become blurred,” says Deborah Witkiss, COO of Insight Legal “you could even say it’s been removed altogether. The reason is there’s simply no clear geographic division from workspace to personal space, no punctuation to the daily grind and no set time of day to shut down the laptop”.
Invest in specific work software
A major part of the problem relates to work software and the fact that many employees do not separate the software that they use in their personal life from the software they use at work. For example, many managers still use direct messenger apps such as WhatsApp to communicate with remote staff.
It can be a much better idea to invest in work-specific software. There are many different professional messenger apps such as Slack and other chat tools. Using these can help employees to differentiate working life and leisure time without any breakdowns in communication.
Encourage the taking of regular breaks
For years, business owners worried that allowing staff to work remotely would lead to them relaxing more often and not putting in the effort required to get the job done. In fact, something that has been learned over the course of locksdowns and enforced remote working - the opposite of this is true.
Remote workers are more likely to feel the pressure to work through lunch and avoid taking breaks in what they assume is the best way to push their productivity. In fact, this isn’t the case at all. Overworking can lead to stress and not having breaks can make you far less efficient at your job.
We have seen here that the key issue for remote workers is the ability to differentiate work life from home life. This means that staff should work set hours, rather than using the opportunity to wake up late and working into the evening (if this isn’t their schedule). Ultimately, employees need to segment their day into the time that is for working and the time that is for them.
Business owners need to have trust in their employees to get on with their job and not need micromanaging. Lack of trust and poor communication can result not only in the lowering of staff morale, but can go in the opposite direction to the intention of the business owner and actually reduce productivity and efficiency.