Newswise — With many in the workforce ordered to shelter in place and work remotely because of concerns about COVID-19, employees are transforming guest bedrooms and kitchen tables into home offices and exchanging conference room roundtable discussions for tiled video conference calls.
Baylor University’s Emily Hunter, Ph.D., associate professor of management in the Hankamer School of Business, is an expert on work/life balance, work/family boundaries and workday breaks.
She shares four tips and best practices to help those first-time work-at-home individuals maintain a healthy working life in a dynamic — and sometimes hectic — remote work environment.
- Establish clear boundaries between work and family however you can.
I know it may seem impossible right now, but try establishing a clear workspace within your home and communicating when it is ok and not ok for others to enter during certain hours of the day. Also, encourage your own self-discipline by setting aside certain times when you will work from home and sticking to those focus times with minimal breaks. Avoid the temptation to go to the fridge every half hour for a snack, or to check your texts and social media – instead wait until lunch or dinner time to check in with family and friends.
- Take purposeful breaks.
Working from home can be toxic in two different ways: 1) you might be tempted to work longer and harder than you typically would at work because you don’t have natural breaks built in for things like chatting with coworkers, or 2) you might be overwhelmed by the distractions of home, finding it difficult to focus, to find a quiet space or to get yourself motivated to work. My research shows that breaks can help motivate you and relieve your stress, but those breaks need to be purposeful. Do something you prefer, get off social media or news sites and instead get outside, engage in a hobby, read a book – you have more flexibility than ever before to engage in meaningful and stress-relieving breaks during the day. And more frequent, short breaks are a better strategy than a longer lunch break.
- Set goals for both family and work.
Interruptions are going to be frequent if you are trying to work and parent or homeschool at the same time – believe me, I know! But my research on interruptions confirms that goals can help. Set specific goals for both your work time and family time each week. They don’t have to be lofty goals, even a simple goal like “do something fun with each child this week.” Then when your son interrupts you on your computer and begs to go play outside, you can feel better knowing that the interruption is furthering a goal and the work will still be there later.
- Seek the resources you need to succeed.
Working from home may look very different for you than working from the office, and you may be finding that you are lacking some equipment, access to shared equipment like printers or communication with colleagues. Now is the time to be clear with your supervisor about what you need to help you successfully complete your job from home, whether that is a webcam or printer ink or a stronger internet connection. Also, seek clear guidance on performance standards and expectations, and if needed, ask for a regular communication time via phone call or web conference to touch base with your supervisor or team.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT HANKAMER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
At Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, integrity stands shoulder-to-shoulder with analytic and strategic strengths. The School’s top-ranked programs combine rigorous classroom learning, hands-on experience in the real world, a solid foundation in Christian values and a global outlook. Making up approximately 25 percent of the University’s total enrollment, undergraduate students choose from 16 major areas of study. Graduate students choose from full-time, executive or online MBA or other specialized master’s programs, and Ph.D. programs in Information Systems, Entrepreneurship or Health Services Research. The Business School also has campuses located in Austin and Dallas, Texas. Visit www.baylor.edu/business and follow on Twitter at twitter.com/Baylor_Business.