The Importance of Work / Life Balance in Our “New” Normal

With most everyone working from home there is no longer a barrier between work and home.  How does one separate the two when they are just down the hall from the other?  When you are working, you should be working and when you are relaxing, you should be relaxing.  The need to shut things down is hard, but necessary to have a true work / life balance.    

Create a Routine

Creating a routine is important.   A routine can help to keep consistency in your day-to-day life but even more importantly, it reduces stress levels, which can lead to improved mental health.

  • Decide what should be included in your daily routine
  • Set small goals
  • Make a list
  • Be consistent
  • Schedule time for flexibility, not every day is going to go as planned
  • Take lunch breaks and small breaks as they are important for mental well-being

Be Present

Give 100% to whatever it is you are doing.  When you are working, focus on work, and when you are with your family and friends, be present.  Let go of the guilt that you are not doing enough. 

Think Creatively 

Get out of your own head.  Setting aside time during the day for creative thinking is an important way to practice open-mindedness and unlock fresh ideas.  Set aside some time to research a new topic each week.  This will expand your knowledge and bring variety to your job.

Shut Out Distractions

Author Stephen Covey said it best, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” Common workday distractions like e-mail, ad hoc requests, family interruptions, unscheduled phone calls, etc. are frequent causes for disruption.    

Do not allow distractions to rule your day.  Schedule intervals throughout the day to check in and stick to it.  This will allow you to focus on your priorities and spend less time putting out fires.

Keep Work / Home Space Separate

Not everyone has a home office.  But try to carve out a space strictly for work.  Whether it is a traditional office space, a kitchen table, a corner of your bedroom, a card table in your basement; make it your dedicated workspace.  This will help reinforce the boundary between work and home.

Stay Connected

It is easy to find yourself isolated when working from home. Staying connected with colleagues is important for your career growth and mental well-being.  It can be as simple as an impromptu check-in or a scheduled activity.  There are many fun ways to incorporate face-to-face connections while still being virtual.  Some examples include scheduling a 30-60-minute video call for:

  • Team Happy Hours for socialization; make it fun by advising your team members to bring their favorite drink or snack to the call
  • Games / Trivia to play an online version of popular games like Scattegories, CodeNames, Kahoot!, JackBox Games (which includes many games such as Quiplash, Guesspionage, Trivia, etc.)
  • Monthly Birthday Celebrations to honor team members’ birthdays which can be a quick 20-30 minute socialization call

Turn It Off

With today’s technology, constant connectivity is all around us.  But it is important that at the end of the day, you are able to turn it off.  While it may be an easy email that needs to be sent or a quick reply to a text, if it can wait until the next day, it should.

Tips for “Turning It Off:”
  • Shut down for the night
  • Resist checking your phone
  • Mute alerts
  • Focus on non-work related activities

Find a Hobby

Whether it is a new or old activity, doing something you are passionate about helps to promote your well-being.  Time spent on self-improvement is always worthwhile.  Benefits of having a hobby include:

  • Building self-confidence
  • Learning something new (a new language, skill, etc.)
  • Finding joy in something you are passionate about
  • Taking pride in the results of your hobby
  • Spending time doing what you love with whom you love

Use Found Time for Career Development

Utilizing the extra time previously spent commuting could be spent learning a new skill or increasing your knowledge on a specific topic.  There are many organizations that offer free or low-cost webinars and online courses.  Many of which are self-paced, which allows flexibility in scheduling.  Career-related organizations such as SAE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), and National Society of Accountants (NSA), etc. that offer courses and certifications for their specific subject matter.  

Effective Time Use

By planning out your day, you can reduce your stress, have more freedom, be more productive, procrastinate less, and ultimately be more effective.  One way to accomplish this is by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).  Other ways can be found in the list below:

  • Prioritize important tasks for the day.
  • Make a to-do list for the day and at the end of the day, update your list for tomorrow.
  • Delegate when possible to give you time to do the things that only you can do.
  • Focus on one task at a time. Avoid multitasking, as this can overload the brain.
  • Set time limits for tasks to encourage new / fresh ideas and avoid losing interest.
  • Stay organized. Utilize your calendar, which can be your best friend.  Use it for reminders of tasks, scheduling meetings, agendas, etc.  But be flexible – rescheduling is allowed.
  • Limit how many times per day you check your email, which can cause massive distractions and pull you off course.
  • Group similar tasks together, as they typically require the same type of thought.

Balance New Roles

In this new “normal,” remember . . . you are not alone.  Many parents are now grappling with balancing their work life (from home), with being newly appointed teachers to their children (also from home).  This is a daunting task.  However, this new role can be both challenging and rewarding. 

Be sure to communicate your schedule and situation to your manager and colleagues, as well as your child(ren), to set realistic expectations on both sides.  In addition, communicate with your child’s schoolteacher to ensure transparency and cohesiveness.  The more support you have, the better.

Create a structure but be flexible and allow changes as needed.  Consider allowing your children to make choices about that structure so they have buy-in.  Routine is extremely important for children, but it also helps to keep chaos from erupting in both work and home life. 

Try using visual cues to indicate “do not disturb” meeting times for your family so they know not to disrupt you.  At the same time, be sure to carve out time from work, to provide your children adequate support with their schoolwork.  It is just as important to schedule breaks for you and your children.  Keeping you both fresh and alert will go a long way to accomplishing your goals for the day.

At the end of the day, when work and school are over, allow for family time that gets you back to being a parent and child.  Do something fun and unstructured! 

Most importantly, set realistic expectations.  You do not need to be “Teacher” and “Employee of the Year.”  Things will likely fall apart on a given day and you will not be flawless. That is okay.  Set a schedule and let go of the guilt from not being the “perfect” employee or the “perfect” teacher. 

Final Thoughts

In the end, there are both perks and drawbacks to this new “normal,” but utilizing these tips can help navigate this new terrain.  Be kind to yourself and allow for missteps.  Remember, we are all in this together.