Still Working From Home? Here’s How To Balance Your Job & Family Life

Learn how to set boundaries so both worlds don’t collide. 

By Sasha Gonzales        24 February 2022

While 50% of Singaporeans who can work from home may have returned to the office, working from home, or a hybrid of home-and-office working, is still happening in 2022, and once again, we’ll have to deal with balancing our professional and personal lives.

This need not be complicated, says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre For Psychological Wellness at Gleneagles Medical Centre. Drawing boundaries between work and home, setting and following schedules, and practising self-care can help you manage the stress and anxiety that come with having to juggle your job and personal and family commitments.

Q: What are the drawbacks of working from home and how can they affect our mental health?

Dr Lim: Working from home can be stressful because you may not have a stable schedule or routine. Additionally, because you don’t have to commute to the office you may find yourself sleeping in more – this may result in an irregular circadian rhythm and increase your risk of insomnia.

You may also find that the boundaries between work and home are blurred; you may end up working longer hours and not give yourself breaks for meals or even for using the toilet.

Working at home also has many distractions, making it hard for some people to concentrate. When this happens, it’s easy to miss deadlines or to rush through work tasks, and this can further compound the stress.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for people who work from home to feel tired, overworked and even burnt out. Their productivity may drop, which only adds to their anxiety. In severe cases they may develop anxiety disorders and depression.

Q: Why should we set boundaries between our professional and personal lives?

Dr Lim: We’re in working mode during office hours – that is, we’re more alert and focused. Once home, however, we’re in rest mode and find it easy to let go of tension. When the boundaries between work and home are blurred we may have trouble “switching off”. The tension and stress from work stay with us and we find it hard to let go of work-related anxiety.

You can set boundaries by working only during office hours. Doing overtime occasionally should be expected, but by and large, office hours should be observed and respected. You should also have different spaces for work and rest.  

Q: How important is it to have separate schedules for work and family, so that we don’t max ourselves out?

Dr Lim: Schedules tell us what to expect and offer a degree of certainty and reassurance. They also help us plan and manage our time better.

A good, predictable routine is one that keeps your stress and anxiety to a minimum. You shouldn’t have to rush through your day and you should give yourself time to deal with problems and changes in case these occur.

Q: How can we practise self-care while working from home?

Dr Lim: First, remind yourself that self-care is essential. Making time for yourself every day isn’t selfish; it helps you relax and recharge and allows you to be more effective in your job and personal life.

You have to prioritise self-care and be disciplined about practising it. Exercising is the best way to relax your body and mind. Another way to be good to yourself is to have a hobby that you can slowly master, like gardening, playing a musical instrument, cooking, and so on.

Personal time needn’t always be productive. Sometimes you just want to have a meal with friends, watch TV on your own or do nothing, and all that’s fine, too.

Here are more ideas on how to practise self-care: Wellness: Why Self-Care Is Important

Q: How can we still make time and be there for our family while working from home?

Dr Lim: You can reassure them by giving them a peck on the cheek or a quick hug in-between work tasks.

If you’re married, schedule date nights with your spouse so you both have something to look forward to at the end of the workday.

If you have children, set aside quality time with them. You may not be able to play or watch a movie together while you’re working at home, but at least they’ll know that they will have your undivided attention when you’re finished.

Having dinner as a family every night is a great way to bond, give one another emotional support and decrease conflicts. Studies have also found family dinners to be hugely beneficial for children’s self-esteem.

Q: How can we deal with a bad day if we’re working from home, so as to avoid taking our frustration out on family members?

Dr Lim: The simplest way is to distract yourself with an unrelated activity. Take a five-minute time-out from the aggravating event by enjoying a tea break, reading the news or listening to music. If you have extra time, go for a quick walk or jog.

Mindfulness practices or exercises involving abdominal breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation are also useful; you can search for these online if you’ve never done them before.

Here are some breathing exercises you can try: 5 Breathing Exercises For Better Health

Note: Do not attempt any of the suggested actions or instructions in this article without first consulting with a medical professional. 

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