Does working from home really result in a better ‘work-life balance’?

In more and more countries new rules come into force regarding flexible working. Last year a new flex working law was introduced in the UK and this year it will be in the Netherlands. This law allows employees to request flexible working options from their employer. As such working from home should enable employees to combine work with care and help them to establish a better work-life balance. However, to make this work, there are some unwritten rules…

No more traffic jams and sleeping late. Working from home sounds attractive as you might save one working day a week, when you don’t have to commute. Moreover as you slide from your bed to your desk in your pyjamas, you can sleep out whilst starting work at regular office time. However, be ware as decay is lurking. Flex working starts with discipline.

Make a to-do list with actions that will bring you fulfillment, when completed. Completion is crucial, as stress comes from uncompleted tasks. Completed actions create inner peace. Despite the fact that women plead to be good at multitasking, they will feel better in the end, when dealing with tasks one by one.

Plan all your tasks, both private and business. Train yourself to switch back and forth with a virtual on/off button in your head. One hour work is one hour work. Consequently if you have to take care of private matters the same day, let loose thoughts regarding work. Those working thoughts belong to the following hour. I remember I have been grabbed by the arm by an older and obviously wiser lady, when I stood in the middle of the road with a bicycle between my legs, my son in the child’s seat, my dog on the leach, while I was answering my phone. This lady was my wake-up call. I was devastated by my own behavior. The risk of an accident was obvious. Whether you are engaged in work or in life matters, always focus on one at the time.

Often family and friends have to get used to the fact that you are working at home. All of a sudden they drop by for a cup of coffee and a chat. Before you know it, you have lost another productive hour. Be clear to them that you are actually working and pass through the message that they have to keep their visit short. That goes for all other distractions as well: in-between laundry loads, groceries, Facebook updates and other interesting internet sites. Regard them as side matters to fill up short breaks or to reward yourself with, when you did complete your to-do list. Keep focused on your core tasks.

If you choose to work at night or in the weekends, respect the private time of your colleagues. Save your e-mails as draft and send them in the morning of the next working day. As such you don’t disturb the work-life balance of your colleague and you save yourself from continuously checking for replies. This creates peace of mind for you as well.

Social control
Some company cultures expect you to be available 24/7. Some career tigers like to show off how busy they are at off-hours. Ask yourself if you want to be one of them. It’s important to realize that you have the freedom to set the borders of your own work-life balance. Attached to the concept of flex working is the freedom to plan your own agenda.

Move it!
Sitting is the new smoking. If you do office work at home, there might be a chance that you barely move through the day. That’s not healthy. Treat yourself at the end of a task and move your body. If groceries or workouts at the gym take too much of your time, you could also do some stretching exercises behind your desk. Or turn the music up and dance around the room, as no colleague is watching you after all.

Finally design a work place that invites you to start. Whether it is a separate study or just a dedicated desk in your living room, make it ready when you are. A comfortable chair, a bright light, a fast computer, all contributes. Be a good employer to yourself and install a good infrastructure for flex working with as little start-up problems as possible.

Annick Schoon has developed her own coaching methodology, on which she has started a PhD track at the VU Amsterdam. Do you want more information or would you like to be coached by Annick? Just click on our CONTACT page.