The following article is part of a series of articles about our NerdWallet Internship program. Lucy Wu shared their experience as an software engineer intern. If you are curious about joining NerdWallet as an intern or full-time employee, please apply for one of our open positions!
After one month into my internship, looking at the small portion of the plans that I have completed for my life outside of work, I started to question, “What is everyone else doing to keep work-life balance in this working from home situation?” I asked people on my team, tried out different suggestions, and here are some tips that I found helpful.
As an exceptional working experience in this pandemic period, I work with a team in a different time zone, for which I found it hard to adjust at first. My typical work day would start at noon, which is the early morning in Pacific Time Zone and end pretty late at about 9:00 pm. Although I am never an early bird in any sense, and I appreciate having enough time to wake myself up in the morning, I still find this quite tiring since most of my evening free time is now taken up by work.
The solution here is definitely to establish an effective routine that works for me. Back when I still work in person, I used to block out some time in the morning to check emails and make plans for the day, and block out time in my afternoon for some heads-down development work. So mimicking this routine, I now start my afternoon with pre-planned independent work from the last workday and end my day with checking emails, scheduling meetings and making plans for the next day. Having the calendars marked with food breaks is another thing that could be helpful for you if working with coworkers in different time zones, but don’t be surprised when meetings are booked on top of it.
Work Environment Setup
Having a comfortable and dedicated working setup is also a key component for keeping work-life balance. The more you are effective, the more satisfaction you will get, hence, a healthier mental state and less overtime.
As soon as I asked about my work-life balance question, my coworker recommended noise-cancelling headphones, which she swore was “life-changing”. The headphone really helped me to stay more focused during work, with all the inevitable distractions around the house. I also found changing postures or getting a cup of water when I am stuck on a problem can be inspiring. Thus, getting a height-adjustable desk is also something that I would recommend.
The hardest thing in a remote working environment is communication. Having weekly 1-1s with my mentor, cultural body, and other team members is a good way to stay connected. We don’t have to talk about work-related things all the time in these 1-1s; knowing what has been happening in life is quite important as well. Feeling socially connected, just as how we would stop by with a coffee in the office, contributes hugely to healthy working relations. These 1-1s could be turned into working sessions as well. Some of my co-workers find that having silent working sessions, in which we were on the same zoom call but working on our own thing, helps them stay focused.
As COVID spreads, everyone is having a hard time working from home and missing out on social activities both in their personal lives and at their workplace. With the possibility of work taking over life and feeling disconnected, keeping a work-life balance is more important than ever. These tips about timezone, work setup, and communications are aimed to help alleviate those pains; practicing these life and time management skills would surely benefit you down the line.