We are living in a time where more households are likely to have both parents holding down complex and demanding work roles. We also often hear people trying to cram more into life. For example, being a worker, parent, caregiver or minder, the dog walker, the taxi driver to the kids’ 101 sports and extracurricular activities, the supermarket shopper, family cook, cleaner, gift buyer and the kids’ lunch-maker—to name a few roles. Since 2020, we have also seen a shift in more people working at least part-time from home. While research has shown positive benefits on health outcomes for people working remotely, overall, women are less likely to experience improved outcomes when working from home.
Clinically, we hear lots of women talk about the struggle to juggle constant family household tasks when their workday is done. Studies have consistently shown women engage in household work to a much greater extent than do men, regardless of the number of hours of paid work they do. With more workers now working from home, these tasks can feel even more constant and confronting. For some, it has made managing the boundaries between work and home more challenging. Research Professor Arlie Hochschild coined the term “second shift” to help explain why many women report feeling exhausted when carrying out daily household tasks outside of their paid work hours.
So, how can you gain balance to preserve your sanity and maintain good wellbeing when working from home?
- Create a designated workspace and reasonable schedule
Ideally, this would be a space that can be shut away, or at least move work material at the end of the day so it is out of sight. Negotiate with people in your household in addition to your manager and teammates to align your schedules to reduce interferences. For example, if your kids are likely to be home after 3pm, set work meetings in the morning when you are less likely to have disruptions.
Set your priorities before you start work, or at the end of the day in readiness for the next day. Sometimes it can be helpful to categorise tasks as important, essential and less important or trivial.
- Have a “finishing work routine”
Before launching from ‘work mode’ to ‘home’ or ‘parenting mode’, have a routine to help you physically and mentally detach from work. This could involve tidying up your workspace then taking a 10-minute walk, listening to a podcast or music, talking to a friend. Think about activities that help you leave work behind? It may involve creating a ‘fake commute’ to help you switch off.
- Make self-care a priority
While the pull to attend to others is often strong, it’s essential to look after yourself. Prioritise what you need – rest time, doing exercise, family or friend time. Self-care should be seen as a discipline rather than a nice to have. We all need it to be well within ourselves.