Although many have been forced to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has different expectations, requirements and abilities to merge the home and work domains into one geographic location.
How you manage your work-home balance depends on a number of factors. These include (but are not limited to):
- Your individual personality traits
- Your gender, relationship and family status
- Your ability to psychologically detach from work during allocated non-work time
- Your current and future career trajectory
- Your view of the role work plays within your overall identity, current and future goals and personal reward system.
- How much you are able to engage with your work
- How much control you think you have in your role
- The workplace norms you experience – including actual or perceived supervisor and colleague expectations and narratives
- How familiar you are with the technology and software you are using.
What we don’t always think about is that using work-based technology during private hours can have significant consequences for both you and your family.
Not technologically or mentally switching off from work on evenings, weekends and holidays can:
- Increase your cognitive load, allowing your brain and body less time to physically recover from work – which can significantly lower next-day productivity.
- Reduce your ability to get a good night sleep, and therefore your ability to concentrate
- Prolonging stress and anxiety levels into the evening, not giving your hormones and adrenal glands time to recover and rest and ‘reset’ their ‘normal’ working base-line levels
- Decrease time with your family can cause friction with both your partner and children
- Demonstrate distracted, regular screen-time behaviour in front of children alienates them, raises their stress levels and show-cases negative screen-time behaviour
- Often lead to long-term stress and burnout – both physically and mentally.
Effective management of the boundary between work and private life is an important skill to develop, and one all employers need to recognise as an effective mitigating factor in longer-term mental health issues, productivity and employee engagement.
- Cultural norms around after-hours work-based technology use need to be analysed and addressed.
- Better workplace technology communication habits need to be demonstrated from the top-down.
- Leaders need to be trained in recognising and helping employees when they work too many hours outside of contracted hours.
- Some industries need to be re-evaluated in the cultural norms and expectations around employee expectations.
We all need to be trained in and develop good psychological detachment strategies, to help us keep work life and home life separate and allow ourselves to recover the energy levels used up in getting our job done.