Coronavirus has turned homeworking into the new normal, but boundaries between our personal and professional lives are beginning to erode, and mental health of staff is being affected.
“At the start of lockdown we were running on adrenaline – but now we are being expected to work, play, sleep and live from the same room – and it’s having an effect on productivity and mental health,” explains Melissa Broxton from coworking experts Worksnug.com
Is it possible to maintain a work-life balance when both things are happening in the same place? This is known as ‘work-life blur’ and is something that homeworkers and their employers should be wary of.
The benefits and challenges of homeworking
There are certainly benefits to homeworking. As well as sparing workers the ordeal of the daily commute, it allows them to think of their day in terms of tasks rather than hours. Once all tasks have been completed, the day can end. This is far more motivating than running down the clock in an office because you must be there from 9 until 5.
However, this flexibility comes with its own set of problems. Without set working hours, many employees will find it hard to switch off. Finishing early may create feelings of guilt, even if all tasks have been completed. With no set hours, workers may be left feeling that they are never fully at work, but also never fully away from work. This can easily start to affect an employee’s personal life, as they may find themselves frequently checking in with work during leisure time.
How to avoid work-life blur
Both employers and employees can take steps to avoid work-life blur.
Set a working day and finish on time: Employers can help by setting reasonable deadlines and not contacting their staff outside of traditional office hours.
Set clear boundaries: Employees also have a responsibility to be firm about their boundaries. Having a separate phone or laptop for work can help to create a sense of separation between the personal and professional world.
Separate work from home: Turning a certain room of the house into an office can also help to reintroduce the physical distinction between work and home.
“We need to be mindful that everyone is different, and each employee has different demands. Some thrive in an isolated environment, and others hate it. Flexibility of work and life is going to be important moving forward,” adds Broxton.