Finding work-life balance with remote work
Before March 2020, the idea of remote work was not a realistic option for many businesses. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed options drastically for employees almost overnight, and the remote work experiment began. Fast forward to 2022, and traditional work styles are no longer considered the only option and many employees are looking for the freedom to choose where they work
Remote work is generally viewed positively, but it has its own distinct set of challenges, and businesses that help employees respond to these challenges will benefit with a more productive and healthier workforce, said remote/hybrid work expert Sara J. Perry, Ph.D., associate professor of management in Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business.
This is especially important as remote work continues to be a popular option. According to a Gallup poll conducted in August, 34% of employees prefer to work exclusively remote, 60% said they would like a hybrid model and only 6% would like to return to a traditional full-time on-site model.
Perry has researched the issues around changes to the workplace for over a decade. In her most recent research, "Interruptions in Remote Work: A Resource-based Model of Work and Family Stress," published in the Journal of Business and Psychology, Perry and her research team surveyed 391 couples to understand the difficulties in finding the balance between work and family when at least one of them works from home. The research shows the keys to success for remote work are flexibility and intentionality.
"You can't have a one-size-fits-all; it has to be a nuanced approach," Perry said.
Perry identified two risks to successful remote working: increased interruptions from family members and the blurring of work life with family life.
Unexpected work interruptions make it difficult to focus on the work tasks, and the lack of boundaries between work and family can turn job duties into a non-stop endeavor for the remote employee. These interruptions can cause frustration, a lack of focus and difficulties getting back on task that can eventually put stress on family relationships.
"The simple act of establishing effective breaks during work hours can help people sustain their well-being and job satisfaction without sacrificing productivity. The negative effects of not establishing healthy break habits include increased stress for the employee and their family," Perry said. "If you're using your breaks wisely, the study suggests that those intentional breaks reduce the damage that interruptions."
A good place to start is incorporating some non-work goals into your breaks throughout the workday, which can be as simple as starting or finishing a household chore. According to Perry, these activities make a difference in overall stress, engagement, and productivity.
Breaks focused on self care are also important to include throughout the workday. "Meditating or taking a nap makes you feel restored because you are doing things that make you feel accomplished and give your brain a break from your actual work," Perry said.
Employers also have an important role to play in establish a habit of intentional work breaks.
"A lot of people say, 'I never take breaks,' or 'I don't take enough breaks,'" Perry said. "By offering staff the autonomy to plan their own workday that includes breaks without guilt, employers also benefit. Reducing the stress of struggling to maintain a work-life balance will also reduce burnout."
Understanding how to overcome these and other remote work challenges requires employers and employees be "intentional about meaningful communications and connections," Perry said.
Leaders who recognize the importance of work versus family time can help employees to develop strategies that allow them to grow and learn while maintaining a healthy balance between work and family.
More information: Sara Jansen Perry et al, Interruptions in Remote Work: a Resource-based Model of Work and Family Stress, Journal of Business and Psychology (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10869-022-09842-y
Journal information: Journal of Business and Psychology
Provided by Baylor University