Setting healthy work-life boundaries when home is your new office.

We all thought working from home would come and go within a matter of weeks, but now we are realising it may be here to stay. The kitchen table will no longer suffice as a desk yet the shortened commute from bed to computer is seen as a positive for most. Back in July, we spoke to Justine McGrath from ProActive Coaching about how Covid-19 and working from home is changing our workplace leaders. Justine, an emotional intelligence expert, has a real insight to how senior managers and leaders are handling this move to remote working.

Emotional intelligence is incredibly important now, more than ever. Covid-19 has allowed most of us to slow down and reflect. We are no longer running from trains to meeting rooms to dinner reservations, which before March was the norm for most. The slower pace of life is suiting some but not all.
Justine explained that two major traits of emotional intelligence are adaptability and resilience. Leaders and managers must be adaptable now more then ever. Managing staff remotely is not something many leaders had done pre Covid, yet it was thrust upon the majority of them with little to no warning. Adapting to online communication with staff has been a huge challenge for most. Bouncing back from unforeseen circumstances is something we are all becoming more and more accustomed to. This is especially crucial for leaders throughout Covid-19. Lockdowns are being lifted and put back in place constantly, offices are opening and then closing, and employees’ circumstances are constantly changing. A good leader can adapt and bounce back from all these challenges, while giving their team hope.

Blurred boundaries are common in this Covid era.

Setting boundaries has been a new challenge for many, not just leaders. Just because we know people are sat at home, it does not mean they are available to work 24/7. We are so connected online now that people are expecting replies late into the evening and night. Learning to only work within office hours and tearing ourselves away from emails in the evening is an important part of self-care. It was presumed, pre Covid, that if people worked from home it would result in less productivity. What Justine found, is that many people are working far more. Managers and leaders must be ok with staff setting these boundaries and not expect email replies at 10pm just because you know they are home.

You do not realise how important those ‘water cooler’ moments are in the workplace, until you no longer have them. The brief chat with a colleague as you grab a coffee or the chit chat before a meeting seemed like nothing before but as we continue to work from home, I think we are all realising how much we miss them. Video calling software is great, but it is not the same and many of us find it awkward at first. Justine suggests that managers ask staff how they are and engage in small talk before remote meetings. This will make them feel valued and connected.

At the beginning of Covid-19, there was a lot of anxiety. People were struggling to find the balance between work and home life. How are you meant to find a balance when your whole life is suddenly being lived inside your home? Leadership styles have had to change, and we have all had to become far more adaptable. Some people thrived and made the most of the situation and others struggled. Leaders need to give hope and resilience needs to start from the top. It is not one big transition and not everything needs to be done today.