Balance, the secret to working from home

CMI associate Kerry Thompson shares how she finally learned how to cope with working from home during the pandemic.

It’s all about balance. The secrets to working from home

We’re deep into another – hopefully final – lockdown and, whilst COVID-19 is still impacting, with numbers falling and vaccinations increasing there is at last a timetable back to normality. With a few months to go before we reach that point it seemed timely to publish a piece written by CMI Associate Kerry Thompson on how she initially struggled and now copes with, working from home. Kerry shares her secrets with us…

I was fortunate to be busy in 2020, and 2021 has started in the same way. I’m enjoying working with new and existing clients, and I’ve also recently launched a new project called Akeno Adventure (www.akenoadventure.co.uk). However, being busy does have downsides. The biggest downside for me is achieving a work/life balance.
Working from home has been great in many respects and I can list a number of benefits:

  • Not having to sit in traffic
  • I’m saving a fortune in fuel (and reducing my carbon footprint as a result)
  • I get to spend more time with my husband (I’m sure he agrees this is a benefit!)
  • No commuting time means I have more productive time  

However, by the summer of 2020, it was all getting too much….

I was finding it increasingly difficult to fully detach myself away from my computer and my office, even on the days when I had booked in some much needed time off.  One day, as I was sat at my laptop, looking longingly out of the window at my empty sun lounger, I had a realisation. I couldn’t continue like this. It was starting to impact on my health. The frantic pace of the previous months were starting to take their toll. I was getting headaches and waking up early worrying about the tasks ahead. And this was on my days off!

So, what did I do? Firstly, I patted myself on the back for my realisation! Better late than never! I then told my husband he was right! He’d been telling me the same for weeks and encouraging me to take some downtime. My next stop was my Business Coach. We talked through the situation I had found myself in, and together we created some ‘techniques’ as an experiment (the idea of treating it as an experiment is that I won’t beat myself up if it doesn’t quite go to plan straight away; like all good experiments, sometimes you need to tweak things to make it work).

I thought it’d be helpful to share some of the tips and techniques I am now using to help restore my work/life balance, and I also work with my own clients on achieving the same.

  • Put your ‘out of office’ on – as simple as it sounds, put an auto reply onto your email system to tell people you’re away. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break, and it sets a clear expectation about when they can expect a reply from you.
  • Set an end time for the working day – and stick to it! – Some jobs have a definite start and end time, but in the world of business ownership, it can be very difficult to switch off, so agree an end time with yourself. At that time of the day, close the laptop and start your evening.
  • Have a separate work phone – OK, so this isn’t always possible, but if you can, have a work mobile with your work emails on it. I had this already, but I would then just end up carrying two phones around at all times, which defeats the purpose! I now leave my work phone on my desk in the office at the end of the working day. It really helps to separate my working day and my personal time. 
  • Disconnect emails – I have disconnected my work emails from any electronic devices I use during my leisure time.
  • Don’t be a slave to notifications – It’s too easy to be a slave to the ping of a notification. It can make you feel as though you have to jump on the reply, so I have simply turned them all off! During my working time, I am monitoring emails, texts and WhatsApp’s all the time anyway; I don’t need a ping, ding or tinkling sound to tell me something has come in! 
  • A day off – Aim for at least one day per week with no work related activity – and stick to it!
  • Make time for yourself – Read a book, go for a walk or sit and watch your favourite tv programme – don’t feel guilty about it and don’t be afraid to unplug.
  • Set goals and priorities – Have a clear and realistic set of tasks to do each day. No matter how productive you are you won’t get through your whole list in a day, so prioritise what you can achieve realistically.
  • Prioritise your health – Your business needs you to be healthy. If you don’t prioritise yourself and your health, you won’t perform to your best. 

Remember though, we’re not all the same, so treat it as your own experiment and see what works for you. Let me know how you get on!

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