Working From Home: Finding Work-Life Balance During Quarantine

The pandemic known as COVID-19 has impelled employees from non-essential businesses all over the world to work from home. In hopes to flatten the curve, Malaysians are complying with the movement control order (MCO) imposed by the government. But being quarantined at home means that your everyday routine will be done in your home. With all the different routines and activities, how do you balance between them all while being stuck at home 24/7? How is working from home possible?

A picture of Work from home scrabble
Work From Home is now pushed upon many employees around the world.
Photo Credit: Image by Joshua Miranda from Pixabay

Working From Home Is Easy, Or So I Thought…

I live in an apartment with my younger brother and sister, while my parents and other two younger siblings live in Saudi Arabia (due to my father’s work). I envy those who don’t have fixed working hours from 9am – 6pm on weekdays. But I was more curious about how they were able to balance between work and home life in the same space. Although I had mixed emotions about the situation, I was a bit relieved. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to work from the comfort of my home but I underestimated my capabilities.

I currently work in an architecture/interior design firm that requires most of our work to be completed on computers. However, I was still considered a new employee, so the guidance that I need from my colleagues and boss is important. So now, every mode of communication is via phone calls, texts and emails.

Picture of Atiqah's work space when working at home which consist of a computer and some papers.
I prefer my workspace to be clean and minimalist as I need lots of space around to use the laptop. Most of my work is done using drawing software, as you can see, where I produce drawings for building submission. While working, I usually don’t play with my phone but it is always near in case my boss contacts me.

Discipline When Working From Home

There’s a difference between working in an office and working at home. In the office, your sense of responsibility and focus are higher since people around you are also working. But when you are at home in your pyjamas, surrounded by snacks, and no one to check up on you, that sense of discipline crumbles. You become too comfortable to realise that you are procrastinating and holding off important tasks. So writing a to-do list or checklist for the day can help you stay on track. I usually use an app on my phone called, Microsoft To Do, where I set my tasks with their due dates and reminders.

Screenshot of working at home to do list from To Do App
An example of my to-do list that I used on the To Do App on 21 April 2020. The app also has a feature that can cross out tasks that you have completed.

Focusing on completing one task is challenging if you are easily distracted. My method to staying focused is to plug in my earphones, turn on some music and work until I complete the task. My go-to playlist to listen to while I work on my computer is a Lofi Hip Hop Music Beats to Relax/Study To by ChilledCow on Spotify. Music helps me focus entirely on what I am doing while I block out the rest of my surroundings. There is a quote that I go by when it comes to staying motivated.

Music is one of the easiest ways to motivate yourself. Listen to uplifting track, and songs about success – and you can’t help but want to work harder! 

Aj Winters, the motivation switch

Time Management Is Of Utmost Importance

Managing my time was the challenge since I tend to delay my work towards the evening. But once I set a strict working routine, it helped balance with my other routines at home. I set a 9-to-6 work schedule, with lots of breaks in between. Using the To Do Microsoft App had really helped me plan out my day, even if I don’t follow it entirely. It gives me an overview of the tasks that I want to accomplish to feel productive and content. But when I feel extra creative, I would use the traditional way of planning my to do list in my journal.

Crossing out my to list when working from home with Atiqah's cat Abu.
Crossing out my to-do list with my cat, Abu. Writing out my to-do list can make me feel more inspired and fun towards a productive day.

1. Improper Balance Might Cause A Burnout

I had my first burnout after three weeks into the MCO. Everyday felt like it was repeating itself like a loop. I was suffocated and angry that I wasn’t able to have my own comfortable space that I had before. Being at home 24/7 means that chores around the house also have to be done more frequently. Cooking meals, eating, doing the laundry, sleeping, exercising, and entertaining oneself are some of the tasks that need to be fulfilled too. But I had forgotten to fulfil the other needs that my body required. I lost track of time easily whenever I work and this has taken a toll on my emotional, mental and physical health. Each morning, I would wake up feeling exhausted. I realised that the 24 hours I have each day go by so quickly and I was spending them mostly on work.

Working at home might cause a burnout from improper balance and time management
Improper time management might cause working at home stressful which could lead to a burnout.
Photo Credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

2. Cut Down On Your Screen Time

We are living in the 21st century where people depend on technology for everything. Our main source of communication, entertainment and information are through our phones, laptops and televisions. But if work doesn’t allow you to cut down screen time, your eyes will definitely get tired. A friend of mine gave me an advice that she learned on Instagram from Dr Noor A Amra, an eye surgeon. She goes by the name eyegirlmd on Instagram and Tik Tok and had shared numerous advices during this pandemic. The doctor also suggested the 20-20-20 rule to reduce your eye strain when working on the computer. For every 20 minutes you spend looking at the screen, look at something 20 feet (6 metres) away from you for 20 seconds.

A screenshot of Dr Noor's Tik Tok video sharing the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eye strain.
Dr Noor sharing the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eye strain on her Tik Tok page.

You would be surprise with the amount of activities that you could be doing other than being on your phone. And you could go much deeper in those activities and make it personal. For me, I would sketch or paint whenever I need time off from technology.

Atiqah's instagram page with sketches that were done during quarantine - perksofbeinganintrovert.
Some sketches that I had produced during quarantine at home. Do check them out at my instagram page, perks_of_being_an_introvert.

3. Take A Break And Treat Yourself

Knowing that you have something planned later in the day keeps your motivation in place. It could be as simple as watching your favourite TV show, a game that you have been meaning to play, or even just a nap. Anything that will take your mind off of work for a while so that you can give your body a rest.

A girl taking a break and resting on the bed with headphones on.
Taking a break is important no matter how busy it gets to keep yourself refreshed and energised.
Photo credit: Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay

I would use each break to freshen myself up either by watching TV shows, reading, or just laying down. On days that I feel very inspired, I would cook up a meal for my siblings. And what makes it more unique and special is when I would FaceTime my mum and ask for her recipes. It definitely brings me closer to my family even if they are far away.

Working From Home Is A Unique Experience For Everyone

Everyone copes with this situation differently. We have our own methods of working, focusing, and managing time so there is no right or wrong answer to a balanced life at home. Despite that, everyone gives their best by staying at home, so that our frontliners can carry out their duties to combat the pandemic. They include the doctors, nurses, police, armed forces, security personnel, cleaners, volunteers, couriers, food delivery, and others that are providing our necessities.

Support Each Other

Gratefully, I am doing much better now than the first few weeks. And it’s all thanks to the support of my family and friends. I would take the time to FaceTime my parents and ask how they are coping. With all the panic and chaos going around, everyone is struggling to make ends meet. And all we can do is support each other, even if it’s just a simple gesture of checking on your friends and family on how they are doing.

If you want to know how Malaysia is coping with COVID-19, Hasnah shared with us the importance of staying at home in her article, Staying Home, Staying Alive: Malaysians Learn To Stay At Home.

This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.

About Atiqah GHAZALI

Grew up overseas in a melting pot of global culture to expat parents, Atiqah is well read, and expresses herself best through writing, art and photography. Architect by qualification, but makes a living as an interior designer.

2 Replies to “Working From Home: Finding Work-Life Balance During Quarantine”

  1. Thank you for the tips!!! i need them for my studies!! quite challenging to focus while staying at home!! would definitely give these tips to try! :* grazie!! xx

    • Thanks for reading Natasya and all the best of luck! It will take lots of time to adjust but always go on your own pace and along the way, you might find your own methods to having good focus at home:)

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