With the emergence of hybrid work environments, it is more important than ever for busy professionals to find a sustainable work-life balance. Hybrid work can make it more difficult to achieve a balance between professional and personal life as there are often blurred lines between home and the office.
In this article, we will discuss how hybrid work affects the work-life balance, how working from home affects the work-life balance, and ways to create a balanced lifestyle from both an employee and employer perspective.
How Does Hybrid Work Affect Work-life Balance?
While hybrid work can have many advantages namely around the extra freedom and autonomy over personal schedules. There are also some drawbacks that must be taken into account when evaluating hybrid work.
One challenge that many individuals often face when transitioning to a hybrid office is maintaining a good work-life balance. Without a clear divide between professional and personal time, many employees report longer working hours and finding it hard to switch off in their personal time leading to fatigue.
In fact, one such study by TINYpulse on the State of Employment found that up to 80% of employees who had switched to hybrid were more tired and stressed than before.
How does working from home affect work-life balance?
ONS data from February 2022 showed that more than three-quarters (78%) of individuals who worked from home in some capacity said that being able to work from home gave them an improved work-life balance.
However, it can also be challenging to set boundaries between work and personal life when working from home. Without having a physical separation between the two, it can be difficult to stay focused and productive during work hours when surrounded by a mountain of household chores to get on with.
The possible negative effects of blurred work-life boundaries shouldn’t be enough to put anyone off the hybrid work model though, as the many benefits do more than enough to outweigh them.
In order to maintain a good work-life balance while working from home, it is important to set both physical and mental boundaries between professional and personal life. We’ll get into these now.
5 Ways To Manage The Work-Life Balance In The Hybrid Workplace
1. One effective strategy that helps is creating a schedule and sticking to it as much as possible. By setting clear boundaries around when you will be working, you can ensure that you have time for both your professional responsibilities and personal pursuits.
Prioritising your schedule to allow for dedicated periods of focus on work, will then allow you to feel guilt-free about taking time off to pursue your personal interests.
2. Another tip is to schedule in-person meetings on office days. By doing so, you are cementing the importance of the physical workplace and creating an environment where employees can form meaningful relationships with their colleagues.
In-person meetings provide a unique opportunity for people to connect on a personal level and develop stronger working relationships that can lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction. By making sure that crucial meetings take place in the office while also allowing for flexibility when it comes to remote work, hybrid companies can strike a balance between maintaining a strong work culture while still offering their employees the freedom they have come to appreciate.
3. In order to create an ideal work-life balance, it is important to set boundaries between your professional and personal life. As mentioned previously, this can partly be achieved by creating a fixed schedule of when you are working, but you also need to follow through and make sure you follow this approach during the weekends. Not responding to work emails, calls or messages, since family and friends should take priority at this time.
If you find it challenging to switch off from work-related activities, one effective strategy is to have a second phone that is strictly reserved for personal use only. This phone should have no work-related apps or email access, to ensure zero distractions from your professional life while you are trying to relax with family and friends.
4. If you're looking to maintain a healthy work-life balance in the hybrid workplace, it's important to focus specifically on your well-being. One easy way to do this is by taking regular breaks throughout the day.
Whether that means stepping away from your computer for a quick walk or simply stretching at your desk, giving yourself time to recharge can help reduce stress and fatigue.
In addition to taking breaks, engaging in self-care activities like exercise or meditation can also be incredibly beneficial. Exercise has been shown to improve mood, boost energy levels, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, practising mindfulness techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises can help calm both mind and body during times of high pressure.
Even starting small, incorporating little habits into your work day, you'll likely find that you have more energy and focus for tackling tasks when they arise. And this will lead to a better overall balance between work and life outside of the office.
5. Finally, delegating responsibilities or collaborating with others when possible is an excellent way to alleviate stress while maintaining productivity levels. When working from home, it’s all too easy to become siloed and feel as if you don’t have a team to support you when you’re snowed under with work.
If there are tasks that someone else could handle more effectively than you, consider passing them off so that both parties benefit from optimised efficiency.
Splitting up tasks really comes down to open communication in the workplace. Being intentional about how we manage our workload enables us not only better manage stress levels but also to achieve the elusive work-life balance.
How can employers encourage work-life balance in a hybrid office?
Employers have an important role to play in encouraging their employees to maintain a good work-life balance in hybrid offices.
Designing hybrid work schedules that work for individuals is going to be crucial in ensuring a healthy work-life balance is achieved. It will be up to leaders to take charge and ensure that everyone feels valued enough to speak openly if they are feeling overwhelmed by their workloads.
Going further, company culture and hybrid policies should be focused on employees’ well-being. Initiatives like wellness programs, encouraging physical activity, or providing healthy snacks during meetings. Technology and tools can also make everyone’s lives easier, so be sure to utilise the different tools available like hybrid scheduling and location planning tools.
A recent movement in the UK pushing for a four-day work week could also be considered by employers who want to take work-life balance seriously. Read our guide on the four-day work week to decide if this is the right choice for your organisation.
In conclusion, maintaining a good work-life balance in hybrid offices is always going to be challenging when there are constant deadlines and relentless workloads, which is why it’s so important for everyone, both hybrid leaders and employees to make a conscious effort to change the status-quo.
Ultimately, maintaining a healthy equilibrium between work and personal life will help increase productivity levels at work while also allowing more time for restful pursuits outside of the office environment.
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.