A checklist for business owners work/life balance during lockdown

Running a business, working from home and managing your work/life balance mean different things to different people. We are all having to adapt. But for some it may be easier than others. Catriona Davies from Resolution Mediation Scotland provides us with a useful checklist that should help everyone cope a bit better with the situation.

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4 min read

One of the major challenges for most people during lockdown, is learning to adapt working practices whilst working from home. A key part of that challenge is ensuring that our home life commitments, are also managed within that. I have heard a number of people say that we are all in the same boat with regards to this and I think that’s incorrect.

Perhaps you are used to working from home but are challenged by the fact that you are now sharing your office with your partner/husband or wife? Perhaps that’s also coupled with home schooling commitments? Trying to organise your working day is entirely different in these circumstances, than working from home with an empty house! Yet I have heard a number of people say to those who work from home, “oh but you’re used to working from home it must be easy for you”. They miss the peace and quiet, the routine of their day being uninterrupted and the ability to connect with their team or business contacts.

Others are trying to work from home when they are used to working in an office or workplace. They are used to a dedicated space for work, the daily commute, a separation from their home and their work life. They too may have to share a kitchen table or office space, coupled with home schooling commitments. They miss the separation of the two parts of their life, the thinking or reflection time that the commute creates, being able to bounce ideas off their colleagues and the social interaction that they enjoy in their workplace.

Whether either of the above applies to you or you usually work with a blend of both, there are a number of key areas we ought to consider to ensure that as well as managing our work, we also ensure that we protect our home life too.

Below is a checklist of areas for you to consider.

1. Mindset

I think it is really important to understand that these are extraordinary times. No-one is working from home in any normal sense of that phrase. We are all (whether you normally work from home or not) in our homes during an international pandemic, trying to work. Think about that for a second. I think it is really important to our mindset that we really appreciate that. Without that understanding, the danger is we have expectations of our ability to perform at the same level as under normal circumstances. That expectation may then be, not only for ourselves but for those that work for us or we do business with – impacting our own and others physical or emotional wellbeing.

2. Environment

Ensure that you have a dedicated work space, which is separate to any others within your house, where possible. That may mean sharing the kitchen table with your partner whilst any children are in another room, but creating that boundary is really important. It allows everyone to have their own space for thinking and creating and minimises distractions for everyone. If its not possible to have a dedicated work space, where you can close the door (both during the day and at the end of the working day), then make sure that the function of that room returns at the end of the working day. If your work is within eyesight at the end of the day, again the danger is either to continue working beyond the normal working hours (playing catch up if you feel you haven’t performed to your usual standard) or being unable to “switch off” from work. Neither of which are helpful to your emotional wellbeing nor to your relationships at home.

3. Routine

If you normally work in an office, often that routine is created through working hours or even for those of us who normally work from home, other family members going out to work or school creates the routine. It is really important to create a routine which works for you and your family. That routine might look completely different from your normal routine, but the goal is finding one which supports everyone within your household to have some dedicated time to focus on their work/school and time to focus on their home life. One helpful way to create a boundary between home and work and create routine, is how you dress – getting changed into more informal clothes once the working day is over.

4. Breaks

Ensure that you take regular short breaks when working from home. It is really important to see these breaks as being supportive of your ability to focus and be productive. Equally important, is to have a lunch break of at least 30 minutes which is completely separate from work. It can be very tempting to work on and eat at the desk, but research consistently proves this leads to less productivity not more.

5. Contact

Find ways to have regular contact with your work colleagues or business contacts both informally and formally. Perhaps you schedule a morning break with a colleague over Zoom or MS Teams, to support each other to create a dedicated break time and also catch up informally as you may in the workplace. For those who normally work from home or on their own; reach out to business contacts and arrange a weekly support video call to reduce feeling isolated. Equally as important, is to ensure that you make time to catch up with family and friends. Talking to others who may be facing similar struggles, helps release tension and also reduces feelings of isolation or that everyone else is coping really well!

6. Space

Finding ways in which you create time on your own is also important. Perhaps you have a half hour reading in your bedroom alone (alerting everyone else beforehand) or use your daily exercise as a way of creating time on your own. How much each of us needs that, may be different depending on how introvert or extravert we are. Be aware that this may be different for those within your home and make allowances for that.

Above all simply remember to be kind to yourself and others during these extraordinary times – the difference to yourself and the impact you will have on others, will be huge.

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