life work balance

How to Achieve Work Life Balance in 2021

Achieving a work life balance over this past year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken on a whole new meaning. With so many people working from home for the first time, or perhaps now splitting their time between home and the office, it’s important to find a happy medium in order to keep your sanity.

If your colleagues are keen to get back to the office and you’d like to ensure safety and compliance, learn how to automate social distancing, contact tracing and sanitation procedures by watching our webinars or check out our COVID-19 Resource Hub.

We know finding the ideal work life balance is not easy… but read on as we explain how this balance can be achieved and why it is so important.

An article published in the Harvard Business Review by Iona Lupu and Mayra Ruiz-Castro takes a look at a large-scale study on achieving work life balance. Ruiz-Castro and Lupu found, “At a high level, our research showed that achieving better balance between professional and personal priorities boils down to a combination of reflexivity — or questioning assumptions to increase self-awareness — and intentional role redefinition.”

Work Life Balance: Success Tips 

It just takes a quick internet search to find thousands of tips and advice out there that can help you work on your own personal balance. We’ve scoured many of different links and are going to share a few that we found particularly helpful, starting with some from the research we noted above from Ruiz-Castro and Lupo. They found that, “this is not a one-time fix, but rather, a cycle that we must engage in continuously as our circumstances and priorities evolve. This cycle is made up of five distinct steps…”

The steps they suggest are listed below.

  • Pause and denormalize
  • Pay attention to your emotions
  • Reprioritize
  • Consider your alternatives
  • Implement changes

Aisle Planner, a software company for events professionals, has put out the following 8 useful tips for finding work life balance:

  • Define your balance
  • Take care of yourself
  • Start an hour earlier
  • Set boundaries
  • Limit evening work
  • Schedule time off
  • Ask for help
  • Create a plan

Our last list of tips comes from Advisor Magazine, a publication that provides news for the financial service trade industry:

  • Recognize the need for balance and commit to addressing it in your life
  • Figure out what works for you
  • Beware of the technology chains that bind
  • Use your faith to help put life into perspective
  • Be organized
  • Have goals
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • Enjoy life—focus on what is going well, not what is stressful
  • Remain fit and use exercise as a way to deal with stress
  • Make a date with yourself

The Numbers

Research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to longer workdays, more meetings and more emails. Researchers from Harvard and NYU, working with the National Bureau of Economic Research studying 3.1 million workers, found that the pandemic workday is roughly 48.5 minutes longer. That data also found that the average number of meetings increased by 13%.

In terms of how people are feeling amid the drastic and sudden changes to the workforce, Smartway 2’s COVID-19 Returning to Work Survey found “forty percent of workers miss the social interaction in the office, while 37% miss spontaneous collaboration and idea sharing. Respondents also feel effective collaboration in pairs or teams is lacking when working from home (12%) and think the home is not optimized for productivity (12%).”

Remote Work is Here to Stay

What we do know is that data has found remote work is not going away soon and is likely a permanent fixture in the workforce. This doesn’t mean people will stop working from the office altogether, rather a hybrid model is becoming the new normal. Hybrid work entails an employee splitting time working from the office and from home, because the so-called typical 9 to 5 workday in an office will not be the standard in many industries moving forward.

A report released by Upwork, a freelancing platform that connects businesses and clients, in December found that 56.8% of Americans are still working from home at least some of the time, 41.8% remain fully remote and another 15% are partially remote. Upwork’s data also supports the finding that remote work is not going anywhere. In fact, their Future Workforce Pulse Report finds, “The number of remote workers in the next five years is expected to be nearly double what it was before COVID-19: By 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be remote, an increase of 16.8 million people from pre-pandemic rates.”

Smartway2 found that only 6% of people want to work from home full-time, only 2% preferring to work from the office full-time and the overwhelming majority – 92% – prefer a hybrid model that combines both in-person and work from home.. In that spirit, 35% of people said they strongly agree that the pandemic is likely to accelerate their organization shifting to more flexible, agile and autonomous working practices and roughly 43% said that they agree with that statement. 


Flexible Working Pros and Cons

Flexible working has some very obvious benefits, including limiting commuting time as well as giving workers personal control over their work life. But, the flexibility of working remotely also comes with some cons, notably the feeling of being “always on” and for some a lack of in-person supervision.

The Balance Careers, a website that offers expert advice on job searching, resume writing, salary negotiations, and other career planning topics, has put together a comprehensive list of advantages and disadvantages of remote work:

Top Advantages

For employees:

  • Flexibility to better meet family and personal needs
  • Reduced commuting time and gas expenses
  • Have more control over your time schedule and working environment
  • Can work during the hours that fit your energy cycles best

For employers:

  • Boosts employee morale
  • Reduces tardiness and absenteeism
  • Reduces employee turnover
  • Enhances company image as a family-friendly place to work

Top Disadvantages

For employees:

  • Difficult for office-based staff to work as effectively with telecommuting staff
  • Working from home may mislead loved ones about your availability
  • No clear dividing line between home and work

For employers:

  • Some employees may not work efficiently without supervision
  • Compressed work weeks may mean client availability suffers
  • Feelings of unfairness when only certain employees have work that can be done remotely

How to Organize Your Time

Time management becomes a different challenge when working remotely, and accordingly we are sharing some best practices.

Workest by Zenefits, which offers news tips, trends and tools and community for small business, published a piece titled “10 Time Management Tips for Working Remotely,” that we found helpful and are sharing with you: 

  • Keep a schedule
  • Get dressed (kind of) like you’re going to work
  • Create a workspace in your home
  • Reduce distractions as much as you can
  • Take scheduled breaks
  • Prioritize sleep hygiene
  • Assess whether every meeting is a necessity
  • Reward yourself
  • Meditate prior to working
  • Have others hold you accountable

Smartway2 is a next-generation technology platform that enables employees to book facilities like meeting rooms, desks, parking and equipment, before they show up at the office. This provides valuable insights on utilization that Facilities, HR, Ops and IT can use to continuously improve productivity and the employee experience.

Stefania Vatidis

Stefania Vatidis

Last updated March 1, 2021