As we head towards 2023 at lightning speed, I wanted to take the opportunity to consider a subject close to my heart and, by doing so, look back at some of the significant changes that the last few years has brought. The definition of work-life balance has been totally overhauled and yet can still not be clearly defined. What we once described as flexible working (often in reality this meant allowing new mothers to work from home on a Friday) gave way to a modern movement of a handful of companies offering unlimited holidays and a ‘work from anywhere policy’ saved for only the coolest of companies leading the way in talent attraction. Fast forward, and we have been faced with an incredibly tough few years where many of us were forced to shift our normal working pattern to the extreme. This time allowed many of us to take the time to re-think what really works both for us as individuals, for our families and for our wider team, workplace and productivity. Now, we can look back at what the turbulent years that followed on from spring 2020 have brought with them, and the changes that have taken place to our work-life balance - especially for parents.
So to delve a little deeper into this topic, I reached out to my network for their experiences and collated them below for you to get a flavour of how the sector you work in approaches this subject.
What problems do people face when working from home?
Work-life balance is not something that comes easy and it took a lot of hard work for me to get it to a comfortable level. I went back to work from maternity into the first lockdown which was a shock to the system. Losing the social aspect of work hit me hard and learning a whole new way of working was not something I was prepared for. Nurseries were also shut so me and my husband were splitting work shifts to look after our child, an added stress and something that made my back to work experience harder. This also meant we were working early mornings, and late evenings and the balance was not there, that’s really what taught me the importance of trying to split the two.
In my opinion it has also isolated people, and I believe it has changed the dynamic of company culture and work colleagues/friends for the worst. I don't think it's sustainable and needs to be addressed in the near future. I am a huge advocate of human interaction.
I'm not saying fully remote work doesn't work because for some people it really does, and it has done way before the pandemic and will continue to do so for years to come. The option to go fully remote has become too easy for people to choose even when they don't necessarily need it.
The hardest part of working from home is - unsurprisingly - the isolation and the lack of opportunity to build cross functional relationships with other teams. You also lose the separation between "work and home", so setting strict boundaries with yourself and keeping space to decompress is vital.
Working from home tips for productivity and wellbeing
Victoria Swalwell–Tolley - Senior Account Manager at tmwi has kindly shared her top tips on staying productive when working from home, whilst also prioritising your wellbeing.
- Separate working space, ideally behind a closed door that you can leave in the evenings/weekends. If not a room, then put everything in a bag out of sight. If you can’t see it you are less likely to think about it.
- We all work late, but try to get in the habit of not working too late so work isn’t drifting into your evening. (I have actually found this easier after getting into the nursery pick up route. I have to leave home at 5, so no matter what my laptop is off then. Sometimes I know I have to log back in for the odd urgent task, but being strict on these timings has taught me that most things can wait until the next day!)
- Take regular breathers – go for a walk, make a cuppa, put some washing on. In the office we would happily take 10 minutes to natter over a cuppa, that time is still important at home
- You may be remote but you’re still connected – it's easy to feel like you aren’t when you are remote but remember there is always someone on the end of a video call to connect too.
- Splitting the brain between working mode and mommy mode is hard work but being kind to yourself, learning and understanding your limits and then accepting them is key. We can’t be all things at once, and that’s OK!
As you can see, there are many opinions when it comes to hybrid working, and each parent is different. It’s worth noting at the current parents of this generation are setting an approach that is likely to impact the younger workers of the future – for example, if their parents were able to work remotely or on a hybrid model when raising them, they will expect this when they finally venture into the jobs market. Company views and initiatives relating to this will be interesting to observe going forward.
Personally, I have found such happiness in hybrid / connected working, it is something that I value more than I could have ever imagined. 5 years ago I would never have been able to support my daughter in the way that I do now and productivity at work is not suffering. Productivity and wellbeing go hand in hand.
I spend a lot of my time in my role as Recruitment Board Director advising companies of all sizes on their working policies. Of course not all employees have children and everyone should be treated as an individual with employers carefully discovering what works for each person and the business.
If you would like any information about roles that offer hybrid working, or how to best implement similar policies when building your team, then please get in touch with us today.
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