How Important is Work-Life Balance When You Work From Home?
The term “work-life balance” often feels like it’s overused, but that might happen for a reason. There is a shift in terms of how we work after the pandemic hits. Now that most of us work from home , we need to re-wrap our heads upon what it means to have a separate life and work.
In today’s neverending culture, there is a widely accepted norm that the typical agency life is one of laborious working hours, irrational deadlines and counting down the years until that dream in-house role presents itself.
“How many hours do digital marketers have to work at home?” I typed at my Google Search Bar one day out of curiosity. In the short 0.1 seconds where Google started to display the search result, I recalled all the horror stories I heard from my seniors at college. ‘They made me work while I was sick in a hospital bed,’ ‘I don’t even get to relax on weekends.’ Will this be the case for me as well?
I came across this article from Search Engine Journal who conducted a survey on their Twitter account with the following result.
- 38 percent of search and digital marketing pros said they typically work 8 hours per day, every day.
- 33 percent of search and digital marketing pros responded that they work between 9-12 hours on a daily basis.
- 15 percent of search and digital marketing pros answered that every waking hour is a working hour, claiming that “If I’m awake, I’m working.”
- 14 percent of search and digital marketing pros replied that they work no more than 4 hours each day.
You could be a business owner, a full-time employee, a freelancer, who wants to compare your working hours with others in a similar industry, or you could be a digital marketing newbie like me, either way, this data probably won’t put your heart at ease at all.
There is only a mere 5% and 1% difference between such contrasting answers. Which one is the case for most people in digital marketing agencies then? I tried to get more insights and fell further into research mode, searching for what Work-Life Balance is and how to achieve it while working at home?
Healthy Work-Life Balance While Working from Home
With the “New Normal” slowly turning into “Just Normal”, working from home is not even a strange concept for anybody. When the COVID-19 pandemic happened, it necessitated immediate shifts in the way we work, blurring boundaries of home and work — to the point where there’s almost no boundary.
You could have your lunch while spectating a conference call, or immediately click on a work chat notification while watching Netflix on your phone at night. The luxury of leaving all your work-related tasks and thoughts as you stepped out of the office no longer exists.
The data presented by cmswire.com suggests suggests that peak email traffic starts earlier, and web traffic tends to peak between midnight and 3 a.m. in ways not seen before the pandemic. This result might not correlate with work-life balance.
By the same token, I instinctively thought, ‘so people are enjoying the fact that they have to send work emails at 3 a.m? What is a healthy work-life balance anyway? Is it actually a thing that we should care about?’
The exciting thing is, a research conducted by Morning Consult stated that 86% of remote workers in the US are actually satisfied with current arrangements; 47% are even “very satisfied,” even if that means “having to work from their bedrooms or closets.” Yet another contradiction.
Daiga Kamerade-Hanta, a work and employment sociologist from the University of Sanford stated on inverse.com that, the standard working week is around 40 hours, which is 8 hours per day. She said that working over 48 hours is generally bad for an average employee.
Research suggests that working excessively long hours — usually this means more than 45 a week — is bad for your health, physical and mental, in many ways. From coronary heart disease, hypertension, and higher risk of stroke, depression, anxiety, and poor sleep quality. The effect of overworking is definitely not pretty, we know that much so far.
What is Work-Life Balance, Anyway?
The definition of work-life balance is quite self-explanatory from its name. Work-life balance is the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and one’s personal life. From this, we can kind of see that work-life is a state of mind.
There have always been split-ups, particularly on sentiments around “work-life balance.” Some argue that the term implies that “work” has a more harmful or chore-like connotation, whereas “life” is positive.
Yet apparently, this is not the case for everybody. From the survey mentioned earlier by Search Engine Journey, one fellow digital marketer replied
If Im awake, I am working. Its my life passion, so if Im not taking physical action, I am ideating, strategizing, learning/consuming content, or discussing my craft. I even dream about it on a regularly. When you live what you do, its not work (and thats not a typo for “love”)
— Rachel King ☸ (@rachelking237) January 22, 2018
In the end, it comes down to what life itself is for you. You have the data of what the healthy working hours are, you have a picture of what your week should ideally look like, and you know what kind of quality you want your work to hold up to. There is no one-fit-for-all formula when it comes to balancing work and life. From what I gathered, the formula will come to you as you go.
Bare in mind that the number of hours one puts into work doesn’t always correlate to your work quality. Whether you can enjoy a four-hour workweek or you have to pull an all-nighter to finish a project, it all boils down to productivity and effectiveness.
Should We Strive on It?
It’s easier said than done. With client’s demands and overlapping meetings, it’s hard to picture a healthy work-life balance while working from home. The pandemic has been going on for more than a year, but it is still safe to say that decision-makers everywhere are still getting used to this.
This situation challenges our time management and focusing skills even further than they ever did. But, as a person, it is also crucial for us to know what downtime is. When we free our minds from stress, we can come back even more assertive at work.
Below are the benefits of a healthy work-life balance according to MSG:
- Fulfillment. People who maintain a work life balance experience a sense of satisfaction and contentment.
- Health. A balanced work-life will help in reducing health related complications and the risk of various serious diseases.
- Improved Productivity. More outstanding work-life balance will improve the employee productivity and performance at work.
- Strengthen Relationship. Work-life balance facilitates collaboration in professional and personal relationships.
You can take baby steps to improve your balance within the limited time, by doing these:
- Taking breaks periodically during the work hours. Meditation, relaxation or breathing techniques and stretching helps in improving both mental and physical health.
- Entertain yourself during breaks. Watch a quick YouTube Video, or take a quick surf on Twitter. Studies reveal that spending some time on entertainment would increase your productivity level by 9%.
- Taking off. Plan a vacation. People who spend quality time on vacation are relatively more productive.
Now that we’ve talked about it, Let’s discuss the following things in the comment section:
- So how many hours do you work a week?
- Are you happy with it?
- What is work-life balance for you?
- Do you want to change something in the way you work?