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As more people embrace working from home and find themselves participating in the gig economy, they are able to work under their own conditions and at times they want. This autonomy is only heightened by the internet of things and proliferation of internet-connected devices.
Unfortunately, this ability to work whenever and wherever might also have darker side, leading to sleepless nights, stress, and employees/entrepreneurs who overwork themselves. Taking into consideration the pros and cons of flexible schedules and the ability to work from home can determine whether or not work-life balance is getting better in this new age of technology.
The Convenience of Working From Home
In keeping up with the times, many companies are starting to offer the option to work from home and work with more flexible schedules. Having a flexible schedule means that employees don’t have to adhere to a strict 9-5 schedule, which allows employees the choice to clock in later or clock out earlier during the week. They also have the chance to make up the hours later in the week when they are able to.
On the surface, working from home might seem like the ultimate situation for employees, and there are many benefits to it. Working from home and having a flexible schedule can be invaluable to employees when used correctly.
No Daily Commute
To start, working from home eliminates your daily commute, which can automatically save you gas and therefore money. It also saves you time in the morning, allowing you to sleep in a little longer or spend more time making breakfast or getting ready in the morning.
Manage Your Own Schedule
If you have a flexible schedule on top of being able to work from home, it can also allow you to manage your own schedule. This means that if you are a morning person, you can start work earlier and clock off early, or if you feel more motivated later in the day, you can get to work then. Having more control over your own schedule can make you a more productive worker.
Flexibility in Unexpected Situations
Working from home or with a flexible schedule can also make unplanned situations less stressful. If your car doesn’t start in the morning, you can work from home or get it fixed and work your hours a bit later. If you have an appointment, you don’t need to take time off and lose hours, you can just rearrange your schedule and make up your hours later.
Working from home can also be of great benefit to working parents who can manage watching their kids and completing their job tasks at the same time. This can result in hundreds of dollars in savings from not having to pay for daycare or childcare.
The Hidden Dangers of Flexible Schedules
However great the benefits of working from home or having a flexible schedule might seem, there are two side to every coin, and this is no exception. Flexible schedules also come with drawbacks, like having poor work-life balance. According to a study on poor work life balance by the University of Reno, signs of poor balance in your work life include:
- Overeating, or not eating enough.
- Experiencing lack of sleep.
- Having nightmares about work or certain situations with clients.
- Feeling more anxious, depressed or uneasy than usual.
- Being highly reactive.
- Falling behind on paperwork.
- Being told you’re never around by your family members.
- Getting sick more often than usual.
- Neglecting to take a lunch break during the day.
- Drinking more than five cups of coffee in a day.
- Forgetting to drink plenty of water.
- Refusing to take a break at work.
When it comes to flexible schedules, these symptoms come from a clash of work expectations and time management.
Self-Management and Discipline
While getting to work from the comfort of your own room or home office may seem like the perfect situation, it’s not for everyone. It takes discipline to work from home, and if discipline is not one of your strong suits, then you may find yourself procrastinating your work too much. Eventually, this causes you to miss due dates and have poor performance at work. In the best case, this can mean you get your flexible schedule revoked, and in the worst case, it means that you get fired.
Not “Turning Off”
Another downside to working from home is that for some, it might become difficult to mentally clock off. When you live and work in the same place, in this case your home, you might start to feel like you should be working, even when you have completed your work for the day.
Working Too Many Hours
Whether you are allowed to work overtime or you just get stressed from always thinking about work, doing so can lead to employee burnout. According to business experts, symptoms of burnout can include anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, insomnia, limited appetite, warped concentration, physical issues, and illness.
Traditional burnout can result from working even when you are off the clock, such as responding to email, taking calls, and completing other tasks outside of the office. Working outside a typical 9-5 frame can potentially make this worse. When you are unable to “turn off,” it can cause you to work too many hours and lead to burnout.
Office Culture Deprivation
Conversely, while introverted employees may relish in the idea of working from home and not having to interact with coworkers in person, extroverts and ambiverts might suffer from the lack of interaction. Getting to talk with your managers and coworkers is an important part of working for a company. This can help you keep focused, make meaningful connections at work, and have resources to ask for help. You may also be able to work better in an official workspace.
Finding Balance in Your Life
Of course, many of these consequences are easily fixable if employees are willing to work on improving them. Work-life balance is perfectly attainable when working remotely from home or working on a flexible schedule.
Here are a few tips on how to achieve that:
Limit Distractions and Stay Focused
The first point you should take care of is making sure you can be a productive worker from home and limit procrastinating. If you are unable to get your work done, then you may get your privileges revoked or can end up losing your job altogether. If you find yourself easily distracted, you should choose the right technology to limit whatever is keeping you unfocused: put your phone away, make sure the TV is off, change your music to something that allows you to work. You can also set a timer and not allow yourself a break until it goes off.
Separate Your Living Space from Your Work Space
You can make it easier to focus on your work by designating a working station at home. This is especially important for people who completely manage their schedules and work space, like freelance writers, to manage their stress. Ideally, you’d have a home office where you can work, but you should at least have a desk where you can accomplish your tasks. If you are still having trouble focusing, then you can try going to a nearby coffee shop or library to make sure you stick to your work.
Stop Thinking About Work When You’re Off the Clock
Once you’ve got your focus down, you can practice turning work mode off when you are finished with your hours. This is easier when you have a designated work space, but you can also make sure to close your tabs on your laptop when you are done working and put away any documents in a drawer or backpack so they don’t distract you. This way, you physically put work away to focus on family, friends, and personal relaxation at the end of the day.
Personalize Your Schedule for Your Needs
A flexible schedule is great for personalizing your routine to best suit your needs. This way, you can work when you are most productive and finish your tasks outside of work as well. It can also help to prioritise your mental health by allowing you to take time to fit self-care into your schedule.
While working from home and having a flexible schedule isn’t for everyone, you can make changes to your work day to ensure that you stay productive. By developing self-discipline and creating a functional routine for yourself, you can enjoy the benefits of a nontraditional work schedule, do excellent at work, and have enough time for yourself at the end of the day.