Work life balance has been the holy grail for so many for so long.
There are certainly mixed experiences of this Covid-19 challenge…
Ironically lockdown could have offered the chance for a healthy mix of work and family time, in a way people haven’t experienced before. For some people this has been the case. Or perhaps I should say for some people, some of the time. Much like the Coronavirus rollercoaster of emotions, experiences of work life balance seem to go up and down as well.
Home or remote working has shown some industries and their staff that it is possible, which in my opinion is a huge leap forward. I’d certainly spoken to a number of property conveyancers (for example) immediately before lockdown started who were adamant their role couldn’t be done at home. I didn’t like to say that I’d been doing it very successfully for the last 8 years including 10pm completions with multiple properties and large numbers of documents. I’m personally pleased that we have shown the possibility.
It has not been all sunshine and roses…
It has not been all sunshine and roses however, although the weather is an absolute God-send, and in fact I suspect He may have played a hand. If we had been going into winter instead of Spring-Summer when Covid-19 arrived, I would’ve been even more concerned for mental health!
But, remote working has proven to be challenging for everyone, even those of us traditionally used to it.
Being unable to work anywhere else took a toll on me. I would normally visit my office in Manchester or London a few times a month and work from our local coffee shop on a weekly basis. I’ve missed the coffee shop’s coconut latte and poached eggs more than any other shopping experience!
It’s not just the change of scenery (and seeing other people) but the home schooling and being surrounded by others all day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. But my days at home, just me, the laptop and the kettle, are sadly missed.
My husband and I gradually improved our daily routine of office sharing, taking turns at the “lessons” and booking in our respective meeting times, but it was always a bit fraught!
What I heard from many was that work life balance (if they ever had it) practically disappeared. This seems to be equally true for both men and women.
Boundaries between work time and home time are diminishing, or not there at all.
There is no separation between workspace and home area, either physically or even mentally. Logging on in the evening is becoming even more common. Many have been working longer hours than they did before.
The long-suffered commute has become something people are actually missing, as at least it was a little time to themselves, with their own thoughts, music or podcast maybe.
We are now facing a new challenge.
We’re coming out of lockdown and adjusting to our “new normal”. What that emergence will be like, what returning to our usual workspaces will be like, is still unknown. This is going to be a difficult and new experience for everyone.
The new challenge I see is that many want or even need, for their long term mental health and happiness, to reassess the work life balance pre and post lockdown. This is an opportunity for both organisations/businesses and individuals to make changes that last.
Here are a couple of top tips to improve work life boundaries:
1. Create bridging rituals. In the “old” days of the commute, there was a physical boundary between our work time and our home time. This was a period of time for our bodies and our head to adjust from work mode into home mode. With more working at home, we need to be conscious to create these “boundaries”. Some are using an artificial commute, a short walk outside before and after work. This could be something as simple as playing your favourite song, having a cup of tea or changing your clothes. Get creative. This is something that signals to your brain and body that you have moved from work to downtime even if your location hasn’t changed.
2. Shut down. Having our work at home, the laptop open and the papers lying around, means we’re always “on call”. This is extremely detrimental for stress levels. Have a daily practice of physically closing the laptop and perhaps putting the papers away if they are on sight. Put them away and have time away from “work” before the next day.
Whatever the future looks like, for many working at home a significant proportion of the time looks likely. We need to keep an eye on those work life boundaries to make sure we reap all of the benefits of working more remotely and flexibly without falling into the trap of over-working.
This is an opportunity to make changes that last…
When I wrote this post, I re-read my first blog post of 2020 “New Year 2020” and I like many others had been filled with a sense of hopeful anticipation. It turned out to be a year unlike any other we are ever likely to see in our lifetime again. But, interestingly the spirit of that post isn’t completely redundant.
In that post I said, it feels to me that we’ve not only borrowed money to buy what we want when we want it, but we’ve “borrowed” against our futures by sacrificing too much of our health and happiness in the pursuit of [ ] (insert whatever this is for you here).. I’d like 2020 to be the year we change this and take back a sense of peace and happiness.
I look back with a sense of irony, but perhaps I wasn’t too far off…?
If reassessing your priorities and your work life balance is something you’d like to spend a few hours considering, get in touch to have a chat about a 2 hour “life audit” coaching/mentoring session!
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