Remote workers say goodbye to traffic, long commutes, dress clothes, and eating on the run! According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there’s been a 44% increase in remote work over the last five years. And according to the World Economic Forum, working from home accounts for over 60% of U.S. economic activity.
Remote work is the gift of found time with the right time management strategies. According to the American Psychological Association Work and Well-Being Survey of 2022, among those whose employers offer flexible work hours and the opportunity to work remotely, 95% reported that these are effective supports for mental health.
I work from home, and my wife works from home a couple of days weekly. For our family, working from home has improved our well-being. Meals have moved from the drive-thru to home cooked or Gobble meals. It is easier to get the kids to doctor appointments and pick them up from school if they are sick. We can chip away at chores during our breaks or take walks together.
My goal for our readers is to ensure that found time does not deteriorate into lost time. Here are eight tips for working from home while managing your home.
#1 Categorize your work
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce shared the idea of categorizing your work into four parts. Doing so will allow you to schedule yourself appropriately. Mainly, it allows you to block out the sacred time that you cannot be interrupted. These are the four categories shared by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
Asynchronous work that tolerates distractions (e.g., administrative or repetitive tasks).
Synchronous or collaborative work that tolerates distractions (e.g., internal meetings).
Asynchronous work that does not tolerate distractions (e.g., strategic work or writing).
Synchronous work that does not tolerate distractions (e.g., meetings with clients or partners).
#2 Divide household chores and parenting responsibilities equitably
There is a mental load that comes with managing the home. Paying bills, picking kids up from school, fixing dinner, dealing with insurance – they all add up. Working remotely requires spouses who work together to share the mental load and the time it takes to complete household tasks fairly.
I had an ah-ha moment while reading Eve Rodsky’s book Fair Play. She described what the men around her were doing and focused on while on a plane. Men were relaxing or focused on their work. Women, who work themselves, were responding to needs at home. This was the case for much of my marriage.
My mental load was frequently focused on work because my wife allowed it to be – she was focused on the family. As the workplace landscape evolves, we will see a greater need for men to take leadership roles or at least have a heavier hand in managing the home and money.
If you picked up a few ideas in this article, you will love what Harvard professor Dr. Ashley Whillans has to say. She is a world expert on the relationship between time, money, and happiness, and shared on the Modern Husbands Podcast how she and her husband, who is an E.R. doctor, manage their time.
#3 Maintain a regular routine or schedule (if you can)
Some of us do not have the luxury of doing this every day and all day long. We have competing priorities at home. It’s up to you to figure out what works best for you. As an example, I choose to start very early in the morning and put in three hours of uninterrupted work each day at a time when nobody else needs me.
With that said, I am sometimes forced to work while my son is at soccer practice. As you can see from the picture to your right, it's not a view to complain about.
#4 Set clear boundaries
Working in your living space can present challenges. Do the best you can to define a work area. It makes it easier to stay organized, situate yourself ergonomically, and avoid distractions. It’s easiest when you have the luxury of a home office.
If you and your partner work from home, understand when there is head-down time for work. Folks cannot be expected to collaborate with their work peers if they fight distractions at home.
Self-imposed boundaries are necessary for folks with work addiction issues. Candidly, this was me and is something my wife and I have had to work through. Working from home can be very dangerous for those who battle work addiction. The lines are blurry, and the opportunities and urges to grab your laptop and work when there isn’t much going on at home are constant.
Adults need 8 hours of sleep, and we create self-inflicted problems when we get less. The research is clear, problems unfold if we get less than 8 hours of sleep, and they compound as each day passes with less than 8 hours of sleep. Sofia Quaglia did an excellent job stringing together the research in her article for Fatherly entitled “Is 6 Hours Of Sleep Really Enough? Science Has A Very Clear Answer” Here are two excerpts:
“Various pieces of research have linked sleep deprivation to poor working memory. Sleep quality and length are also linked to emotional intelligence, according to a 2022 study. And insomnia is correlated with higher likelihood of developing depression. ‘Your brain at night is basically flushing the toilet and letting all the stuff go,’ Mednick says.”
“People sleeping six hours or less saw their performance plummet on cognitive tasks testing their alertness and ability to reason, communicate, and remember. According to the study, their abilities declined steadily with almost every passing day. By the sixth day of the experiment, a quarter of the participants were falling asleep while performing their tasks. After two weeks, people getting six hours of sleep every night were performing just as poorly on cognitive tests as those who had been sleep-deprived for a whole night straight.”
#6 Stay connected
Loneliness has been found to have detrimental effects on mental and physical well-being. You may have experienced this during Covid when mental health issues spiked. For some of us, the work world has not changed back, and it’s safe now and necessary to make deliberate efforts to connect with friends, family, and colleagues in person.
#7 Take regular breaks
Researchers discovered that the best workers typically worked intently for around 52 minutes and took a 17-minute break. Your brain is a muscle that needs rest. This is where some couples decide to trade what would be a lunch for exercise and take breaks chipping away at household chores 10-15 minutes at a time.
What we know from research is that regular exercise makes us happier and more productive. As a matter of fact, research found that folks who exercise during the workday experienced more focus, completed more tasks, and were significantly more motivated to work.
Find a way to break up your day with workouts that you can stick to as a part of your lifestyle. The image to the left from Health.gov includes some big-picture considerations to guide you.
Read An Exercise in Happiness if you are interested in learning more about the impact of regular exercise on our happiness.
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