Keeping Work at Work even Though it’s in the Livingroom
Working from home has brought us challenges and opportunities. Some may even liken it to the title of the Catalyst April blog, “Out of the Office: Teleworking in Research Administration is Here to Stay.” Given that, how do we keep up this balancing act while protecting our mental health and avoiding burnout? Here are a few tricks that have helped me maintain balance while my laptop is staring at me in my living room.
Making physical space is critical to keep work at work. Many of us are finding unique ways of working at home, but don’t adopt unique solutions like keeping your laptop on a nightstand to work in bed! Find a corner in a room, a tray table, or even a box to define a physical space. Personally, I used a basket. I put my laptop in the basket at the end of the day to physically disconnect from the office.
Dedicating and communicating working hours is something that should be a given. Many employers expect us to work a standard time (i.e. 9AM-5PM) or a flexible schedule arranged with a supervisor. The key to this is communicating and sticking to that. I like to put my office hours in my email signature. That way anyone I email should be able to see when I’m available. Secondly, I stick to that time and not work outside it unless a specific project/deadline demands (i.e. grant deadlines).
Establishing expectations goes hand in hand with the above statement. If you don’t stick to your office hours and reinforce your office hours to those that do not respect it, failure of unplugging work is bound to happen.
Respect office hours of co-workers is something to remember for yourself. You are trying to establish a work/life balance for your situation. If you are aware of coworkers’ office hours value their time so they too can establish work/life balances. Everyone’s situation is unique so let’s try to respect each other’s time.
Taking a break during work hours is a healthy part of productivity and stress management. Now that you have established a space, dedicated time, and communicated expectations that doesn’t mean you have to be chained to your laptop during your set schedule. Just like if you were in the office, taking a quick walk, a stretch, and lunch (yes, actually taking a lunch) is a great way to give yourself a break.
*Bonus* Using a conference call to help mitigate zoom fatigue. This is a little bonus item, but I find it helpful as too many virtual meetings each day can increase stress and fatigue. It is okay to just have a normal conference call (i.e. no video). This allows you to get up, walk around, maybe even take the call outside. Given specific situations conference calls may not be appropriate, but we did use them prior to WFH so it is a tool to use now.
Degges-White, S (2020, April 4). Zoom Fatigue: Don’t Let Video Meetings Zap Your Energy. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifetime-connections/202004/zoom-fatigue-dont-let-video-meetings-zap-your-energy
Authored by Carolyn Mazzella, MPA, CRA, Financial Research Administrator
The University of Pittsburgh