I am increasingly receiving emails from both clients and candidates at varying hours of the day. My phone will ping at 10pm during my latest Netflix binge (just finished Young Wallander, very good btw) or I will hear it vibrate on the bedside table pre-coffee at 0615. Is this people working more flexibly to suit their lives or a sign that we are not switching off?

As our home and work lives have become more entwined, how clear are the lines for us now and what are the impacts of that?

It really has been fascinating seeing the forced change and effect of home working on recruitment and employment in general, the way different clients and candidates have approached it, have handled that change and go on to manage it over time. This will be an amazing research piece and something we will talk about for years to come as it has had such a major forced impact on the way we work.

There are so many different experiences; I have seen some people who simply can’t walk away from work in the same way they could now they no longer “physically” leave the office. The ping of the laptop/phone is always there and what was initially “I’ll just respond to this one email” has become the norm with an inability to stop. Partners shaking heads with “Are you on that phone again” comments.

I have friends whose productivity have increased massively and with it their hours (and their stress and concentration levels). Some of my part time friends have been able to add an extra five hours to their working week now the “commute” has gone which has been a great financial benefit. Other people report that they can’t concentrate in the same way and find themselves constantly distracted.

Then there are those who really struggle to cope away from the team environment and have feelings of isolation growing, constantly looking for excuses to have a “meeting” with colleagues until they withdraw. Those just missing company or the office bants!

Then there are many who are losing confidence, particularly those that don’t feel supported or have taken on new responsibilities or roles with a lack of training or bedding in and feel uncomfortable reaching out for support.

The zoom life is depleting some people’s energy.

And then I have friends who simply love it, they have flexibility, don’t have to deal with team members (we can’t like everyone!), the hassle of parking and people and queues and all the madness that someone like me actually enjoys!

12 months ago, when the pandemic started a lot of people were delighted with home working the new novelty and how it will work for me but as it inches towards 12 months for some, the novelty has well and truly worn thin and a balance has not been struck.

Is that down to the way we are managing it? And how can we make the very best of it right now?

Having discipline with your time seems to be the most common piece of advice and taking breaks during the working day are so important.

We need to remember that sitting on the laptop 24/7 won’t make you super productive. Research tells us that taking breaks is a necessity for both work and well-being.

You might think working through breaks keeps the juices flowing but studies show your performance gets worse the longer you focus on one specific task.

We must learn to “detach” from our work. Our body and mind need time to recover so being disciplined is key. The detachment only comes from separating yourself from those work thoughts, if you don't take the breaks, you'll constantly carry that work (and its stress) “home” with you and won't find that much needed rest. And it’s not only rest that we need, but its room in our minds to process and even create!

Research also shows us that some types of breaks we take can increase fatigue (mindless snacking/shopping/scrolling – ooops puts down chocolate rice cake and closes ASOS sale!) so do something different! Get up and get outside. Do the things that make you feel happy away from a screen. Some are taking their meetings outside, "lets meet and discuss that down at the hungry man (er sign me up!) or "let’s go over that new idea whilst we stroll the reservoir". These can have real benefits and give fresh perspective in a new environment. It could be just what some of your team members or colleagues need.

With many of our clients now establishing new flexible and home working policies it is unclear exactly what the future looks like, but we do know that home working will continue so its key to make sure you have effectively managed balance. Its far more than just having your work “space” sorted.

So far, several of my contacts are looking forward to the “best of both worlds” and “two days in the office three days at home” with others “get me back in now full time please”! It will be an interesting phase to manage.

Clients are talking about how they are re-creating the office environment to become more of a collaboration space where employees will come in to have meetings and share ideas and then return home for the bulk of their week.

We are still in a time of change and time will tell what the future of work looks like but it’s important that we take time to ensure we have this balance now and the benefits of establishing good discipline will ensure we keep on top of our games. I will look forward to sharing observations as we move to the next phase until then I can feel a strategy meeting stroll at a bay coming on........