Finding Balance While Working from Home

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For years, it’s been the norm for people to overwork themselves, putting in early mornings and late nights to prove their allegiance to their jobs. Over the past decade, companies have tried to create programs that claim to have greater flexibility, or work-life balance, as the term goes. That balance didn’t necessarily include an option to work from home. In fact, before the pandemic, only 6% of Americans worked remotely full-time. Gina Kutsch was one of them.

Kutsch is senior director of proposals at OnSolve, a provider of critical event management solutions to government, utilities, manufacturing, health care and retail entities. She figured out how to maintain a balance between work and home while working from home after a cornerstone event — her then 8-year-old child asked why she liked her job more than her family.

Kutsch made some radical changes after she received that question, and she believes all of us can, too. Here are five things you can do — that you already do as a proposal professional — that can bring harmony between work and home.

1. Strategize.

You strategize for proposals, but are you doing it at home? You need to! Start by gathering tools such as a whiteboard, a notebook or a calendar, and plan to use them only for home-related notes. Set your goals: What are things that you want to do with your family? By yourself? Make sure your personal goals outnumber your career objectives. Set your non-negotiables — things you won’t give up in your personal life for work. Then communicate: Let your colleagues know what you’re prioritizing and what your goals are.

2. Plan.

Staying balanced requires planning. Keep your calendar updated. Block out an hour every day for lunch so people know you’re not available during that time. Add a 15-minute buffer around all meetings (you need time to reset before jumping into the next one).

3. Be flexible.

In the proposal world, nothing is cut and dry. Your assignments can change quickly, so it’s important to be flexible. This applies to your personal life, too. Expect the unexpected, go with the flow and when things go sideways, keep your boss updated on what’s going on.

4. Review and learn.

Like proposal professionals do in post-mortems or lessons-learned meetings, consider what’s going well for you and what could use adjustments. Ask yourself: Are my tools working for me? Am I using my “me” time? Is work encroaching on my personal time? Am I making progress? Am I spending all hours at the computer? Evaluate your work-life balance regularly, get feedback from people who know your goals and ask if they think you’re on track to meet them.

5. Celebrate!

It’s important to celebrate when you meet a personal goal, and that doesn’t mean just checking an item off your to-do list. Go on a vacation, host a party or simply high-five a friend. When you write down your goal, note how you’re going to celebrate it when you get there — and follow through.

Audience members at Kutsch’s session offered some ideas of their own for working remotely more efficiently:

  • If you can, make your workspace a separate office to which you can shut the door. It should be an area that you don’t need to return to during non-business hours, so you don’t physically mix your work room with your home rooms.
  • Keep getting interrupted by the doorbell during meetings? Buy a no soliciting/no politics/no religion/no fundraising sign to avoid solicitors knocking on the door.
  • Give yourself a break! Read a book in the morning for a couple hours to start your day on a positive note.
  • Need a subtle way to tell your housemates you’re on a call? Use a colored light and turn it on red to let everyone know to be quiet.

This session took place at APMP’s annual Bid & Proposal Con in October. Save the date for next year’s conference, scheduled for May 22-25, 2022, in Dallas, Texas.

Rachel Thompson is a proposal manager at Dragonfly Editorial.

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