Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

12.33 19 Nov 2020


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More people than ever are working from home with kitchens becoming the new office space. 

It is four weeks since Level 5 restrictions came into place with most people required to work from home unless carrying out essential services.

However, people may be working up to 60 extra hours a month from home than they would during normal office hours.

It can therefore be a challenge to achieve a healthy work-life balance when your home becomes your place of work.

Dr Malie Coyne, Clinical Psychologist and Psychology Lecturer at the National University of Ireland Galway, says there are certain steps that both employees and employers can take to improve the balance.

She told The Pat Kenny Show how the lockdown has been especially difficult for people without dedicated offices in their homes.

She said: "It's been so difficult for people since March to figure out how to work from home where that isn't that separation.

"Some people are lucky enough to maybe have a separate office or spare room they can use but other people are sitting at their kitchen table trying to get work done.

"Now, it's still difficult because if your kids, for instance, are coming home from school and they're there from 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock onwards and there's nothing else on in the evening.

"People have found making that division quite a difficult thing, redefining this balance, and it's up to employees to do that.

"But I think it's important for them to know they can seek support from their employers in terms of helping them with that."

Dr Coyne added that people working from home are missing the feeling of being part of a team and the informal chats that take place with colleagues.

She said it was important for business owners or managers to get in contact with employees to talk about things other than work and to ask them what they can do to make their working environment better.

She said: "During the initial lockdown, we didn't know how long it was going to last and I think people beared with their kitchen chair because they thought they would be back at work soon.

"I think we now realise in this second lockdown that this situation is not going to resolve any time soon...so I think it's important for them to be assertive with their needs.

Routine

She said it was important for employers to make clear that staff would not be required to work beyond their allotted hours or schedule.

Likewise, it is the responsibility of workers to implement those rules that they would not be still at their desks when the working day is over.

Dr Coyne said it was important for employers to recognise that if they want the optimum productivity levels, it is better if employees stick to a routine.

She explained: "If they have certain hours for work, certain hours for breaks, it's important to get up out of the chair and do something.

"But at home, it's much harder not to get distracted by another task, like putting on a wash or whatever.

"I think it's really important for that routine, at this stage of the pandemic, to be put into place and that's up to employees but also their employers.

Dr Coyne added that while people may be missing the "treat" of lunch at work, they should try and "take advantage" of being at home by making extra food the night before or going out for a walk during their break.

She said: "Just do something that breaks up the day have a call with somebody, have a bit of a laugh, I think it's really important

"I think we're missing out on those social outings of going out for lunch or having a complain about something that's going on at work.

"We're really missing out but I think it's important for people to know it's temporary and we will get back to some sort of normality.

"Work practices may have changed forever, and there are some people who are happier to be working from home, so there may be some positives."

Dr Coyne said that we are "carrying COVID around on our backs" and that we need to take a holiday from the news and work.

She said that by getting a sense of achievement, through work or other tasks, connecting with others, and doing something purely for the joy of it can all help with our wellbeing and mental health.

You can listen to the full interview here:

Working from home? Here's how to achieve a better work-life balance

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

 

Main image: File photo of a laptop on a dining room table set up as a remote office to work from home. Credit: PA

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