To stop the spread of the COVID-19, many companies are switching to remote working, relying on alternative technology to stay connected and to get work done. With the recently imposed lockdown in the UK, people are now being told to stay inside as much as possible. In these unprecedented times of stress and worry, how can we distinguish between work and home and what are some tips to turn home life into productive work life without compromising both? Yasin Rofcanin and Mireia Las Heras discuss.
Tip 1. Identify whether you are a ‘segmentor’ or an ‘integrator’
Boundary theory tells us that individuals prefer different levels of separation between the work and family domains. Some employees prefer their work and family domains to be as segmented as possible whereas other prefer their domains to be more integrated. This will be particularly important at the moment, as many people struggle to juggle their work with their home obligations. Normal ways of separating these roles - for example, during the working day children would normally be at school – currently do not apply. The domains will bleed into one another and it will be difficult to avoid technological interruptions in your home life.
If you are a segmentor (that is: you prefer to keep work and family separated): Clarify to your family WHEN (set a schedule), and from WHERE (your room? The kitchen?). Communicate the times to your peers and bosses, so that as far as possible, they don’t expect a response from you outside your “worktime”.
If you are an integrator (that is: you don’t mind managing work and family issues as the same time): Make a list of goals both in the work and in the family domain, to make sure that one does not dominate over the other. Since you might have to perform both simultaneously and interchangeably, you may not realize if one is taking the time of the other.
Tip 2. Make yourself available to your peers and reports
A growing body of research underlines the importance of empathy and perspective taking as key characteristics of leaders. To show appreciation and understanding, you do not have to be physically present with your team members. But ensuring you are there for them at an emotional, fraught time is a key opportunity to gain the trust of your employees. Indeed, our research has supported this claim, showing that employees who receive emotional support from their leaders and peers are likely to be more productive, as they feel empowered to do what they need to get the job done in their own way.
Why not drop them a note on the weekends? Something very informal, and not asking anything regarding work, just showing genuine interest and appreciation.
Make them know that you appreciate their work in this times of stress. Do not take their dedication for granted: many might be doing it with GREAT effort, without the best physical conditions at home, worries, noise, etc.
Tip 3. Engage in home-family issues
Home engagement can be defined as a sense of dedication and absorption with your family life. Our study highlights that employees who feel “home engaged” are more productive. When employees are able to engage fully in their home life, they get recharged but also feel satisfied and gratified that they are able to focus on - what is for most people - their most important responsibility. This means that they are able to concentrate better on work as they aren’t feeling distracted or pulled in different directions.
Plan your evenings. Make the most of your family time, and try to do things that engage all members of the household. Games can help, as well as stories, contests, etc.
Tip 4. Craft your job, your home and family
Job crafting alludes to the fact that employees can be proactive in shaping how they work. Crafting can and should also be done in our home domains. When working from home, we could expand channels of communication with our colleagues in the form of various proactive initiatives such as virtual coffees, on-line meetings, or Teams. The underlying idea is to proactively shape and expand the lines of communication to help achieve our goals effectively. Our research shows that by engaging in relational job crafting continuously, employees feel more engaged to their jobs and as a result, demonstrate increased work performance and productivity.
Set some goals – are there people at work you’ve always wanted to invest more time in, but haven’t had the opportunity? People welcome personalized notifications, offers for help, in this time of stress and volatility. Thus, use this time to connect and or work with people you find interesting, amusing or helpful.
Put yourself forward. Companies are now setting up committees and work groups to study scenarios, options, potential ways of facing various challenges. Establish where you can contribute the most, learn the most, or collaborate with people you like, and get involved.
Tip 5. Integrate leisure crafting in your work-home domain
Last but not least, try to integrate leisure of some sort in your daily routine. Increasingly, studies are showing that leisure crafting facilitates the transmission of positive experiences and mood to one’s work and family domains. As shown in this study, the positive effects are even more pronounced when leisure crafting is professionally carried out.
Do your work in a way that allows you to still care for yourself, whether that is doing indoor sports at home, reading, or participating in book clubs. If you let work expand and take over your whole day: that could have negative effects for you, your family and your company, as you might end up stressed and unwell. So, do everyone a favour and ensure quality leisure time!