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Working from home is the new way of working. Many companies will keep encouraging working from home, even when restrictions are lifted. For me, working from home was anything but ideal. As a starting PhD-candidate, the pressure is high, and instead of writing papers or collecting data, I was homeschooling my 7-year-old with my 1-year-old between the legs. They were impossible months. But eventually, working from home taught me to be more efficient than ever before.
Work-life balance: Segmentors vs integrators
Google is one of the leading companies that based its working environment on the science around work efficiency. They even investigate it: gDNA, a longitudinal study into the work-life balance of Google’s own employees, showed that there are two types of employees. 31% were segmentorswho have no difficulties in separating work from life, but the other 69%, the integratorswho definitely did feel work pressure in the private environment. Often this included working during your private time. If you need to work from home, separating private life from work becomes practically impossible. Moreover, I also experienced the opposite situation: private matters such as teaching or changing diapers forced themselves during working hours.
Working on the waves of the day
But when I finally accepted that working 8 consecutive hours was not going to happen, I learned to listen to when I was focused and when not. Research into the influence of the circadian rhythm (rhythm of the day) shows that we are only really focused during short period of the day. I prioritized tasks that required full concentration during the late morning and afternoon, because this is when our attention peaks (although this differs per person). Other tasks such as answering e-mails I reserved for the end of the work-day or evening. According to the ultradian rhythms idea, there are also shorter waves of concentration per day. I could nicely use this now that I was continuously interrupted: I started working in full dedication for 1-1.5 hour sessions and immediately noticed my efficiency increased.
Breaks and working out
Working shorter sessions also means more breaks in between. I am not the type of person that meditates, but mindfully taking care of the laundry is ideal for such moments. Or when the weather permitted, I took a walk with the kids or did some gardening together. Scientific research shows that breaks promote focus and stimulate creativity. Moving is also a great way to relax and has a positive influence on work performance. It’s for a reason that companies like Google encourage sports by having gyms in the workplace.
Balance by integration instead of separation
A good work-life balance does not mean you need to strictly separate the two. The trick is to integrate work and the rest of life without having one of them take the upper hand. So, I sometimes work on evenings or in the weekend, but I also workout during work-hours. For me, working from home this way is a keeper!