As more of the workforce turns to remote working arrangements, the struggle to retain a good work-life balance has taken center stage. It’s not uncommon to find yourself working longer hours than you typically would in an office, succumbing to distractions, missing the social connection of in-office work, or feeling a bit like a boat without a rudder. How can you achieve a better work-life balance when your home is also your office?
Whether you’ve been working from home for years or are new to the remote working way of life, following proven best practices can help you be more efficient, driven, and effective in your role as an accounting professional. It starts with creating accountability, setting boundaries, developing clear goals, and maintaining your social connections. Let’s dive into the best practices to achieve a better work-life balance as you work from home.
Staying accountable is one of the best ways to ensure you’re working from home efficiently. If you’re new to a remote working environment, it’s easy to find yourself in a rut where you’re unsure if you’re accomplishing your goals and staying on track.
Whether you’re working as a sole proprietor or as part of a larger team, keeping the following things in mind will help everyone stay accountable:
What will you accomplish today? You might have daily cash flow statements to prepare, an upcoming monthly close, or auditing evidence to collect. Having a solid plan for the day and what you plan to get done gives you clear direction to start with.
What did you accomplish yesterday? You might have completed financial reports, met with clients, or completed forecasting or budgeting work. Recording and sharing even small tasks can help indicate where most of your time is spent and prompt you to rearrange priorities if needed.
Are your current projects and tasks on track to meet deadlines? Perhaps you’re in the middle of an audit or preparing for your month-end close. Are you on track to complete your projects and processes in time?
In an office setting, these topics are easily covered by a morning meeting. While working from home, you’ll have to be more purposeful to ensure everyone is on the same page. Consider scheduling a daily virtual meeting with your staff to stay on track, encouraging everyone to share their answers to the above questions.
If you’re a sole proprietor, accountability is just as important to give yourself clear direction and help you track your progress. You might find it helpful to keep these questions posted at your desk to ensure they stay top of mind.
Working from home can quickly eat into your personal life because it blurs the lines between work and home. Without a separation between your personal and professional life, you’re more likely to experience burnout. If you find yourself consistently feeling like you’re underperforming, depleted of energy, and distant from your work, it’s a good indicator that you’re experiencing burnout.
Setting clear boundaries is the best way to avoid burnout in a remote working environment. Your boundaries need to not only address your work, but also your life at home.
Home may have more distractions than the office. An accountant with small children, pets or a busy front door can find it difficult to focus on her work in the face of these other distractions. It also can be difficult to work when it’s so easy to take a nap or watch a bit of television. -Houston Chronicle
Setting boundaries to establish a better work-life balance starts with recognizing what you need to do your best work. Do you need a distraction-free home office? Do you work best from a traditional office set-up, or do you prefer working on the couch or at the kitchen table? Do you have pets or children that will need your attention throughout the day and excessively interrupt your work?
You know your home and work schedule better than anyone, so seek to set boundaries that target distractions and circumstances that blur the line between your professional and personal life.
Goals help you develop a roadmap that points you toward your desired result. Short-term and long-term goals are important to set while working from home. You might set a goal for each day, week, month, and quarter to keep yourself pushing forward.
When you’re developing goals for yourself as you work from home, make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T.:
Specific, measurable goals are important to set so you can accurately track your progress working toward them. Attainability and relevance are also essential attributes of any goal you set. Unreasonable goals that won’t positively affect your work or work environment can hamper your productivity. Time-bound goals keep you focused and working steadily to reach by a specific date or time period.
It’s also important to ensure that your goals are written or posted somewhere they’re easily seen. If you set S.M.A.R.T. goals, they will give you direction as you work from home and help you keep your work-life balance in check. If you find yourself unsure what task to work on next, you can always refer to your goals to get back on track.
For example, you might set a S.M.A.R.T. goal to cut down on the time it takes to complete your month-end close from 10 days to 8 days. To create a S.M.A.R.T. goal, you’d identify the most time-consuming tasks in your monthly close, look for ways to automate or simplify those processes, implement those practices, commit to measuring and tracking your progress toward the goal, and give yourself a time period in which you want to have the goal completed.
Human connection is one of the most obvious differences in working from home and working in an office. In an office, a simple walk down the hall or into the break room can result in spontaneous conversations and interactions. The hum of voices and ringing phones brings a certain life and energy into a shared workspace. While working from home, those spontaneous interactions all but disappear - so you’ll need to be purposeful about maintaining your social connections.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an extrovert, social connections are important for mental health and wellbeing. Maintaining those connections may take more planning than it does in an office, but if you want to achieve a better work-life balance, it’s time to commit to making plans and scheduling time to be with others.
Here are some ways you can maintain your social connections:
Schedule video and audio calls with colleagues
Attend professional conventions and conferences
Visit friends and family members
Plan a party or gathering
Keep plans you’ve made
Work from a public place a few days each week
Schedule lunch, dinner, or coffee with a friend
Volunteer your time to a charity or organization
Working from home presents its own set of challenges, but with a plan in mind, you can ease the transition from office to home office. Stay committed to being accountable, setting clear boundaries, developing measurable goals, and maintaining your social connections to improve your work-life balance as a remote accounting professional.
Apply these tips to your remote working arrangement to be more productive, efficient, and motivated to do your best work.