Work-life balance has been one of the most hotly debated topics in recent years - and for good reason. With an increasing number of companies offering remote work options and the inscrutable rise of “influencer culture”, more people than ever are blurring the lines between home and career. And up to now, that’s been an unexpectedly positive thing.
In 2019, Owl Labs reported people who work at home report higher job satisfaction and overall happiness at work, higher salaries than on-site workers, and less stress. Employers who offer the ability to work remotely also benefit from less turnover, reduced overhead costs, and higher rates of employee productivity.
But in 2020, even as many of us have shifted to a remote work model, is it realistic to believe anyone can genuinely achieve work-life balance?
While we’re all undoubtedly enjoying the fact that we’ve ditched our long commutes and sweat pants are now acceptable work attire, for many of us, the buck pretty much stops there. Factor in global layoffs, e-learning modules for school-aged children, daycare closures, and/or unfortunate budget and pay cuts, and you’ve got a recipe for stress. Instead of reaping the highly sought-after benefits of remote work, today, a lot of remote workers are merely trying to survive.
How do you achieve any semblance of “balance” when you have to do more with fewer resources? If you’re parenting and teaching and working in between, where does work stop and life begin? How do you get by when tips like “set a structured work schedule” and “designate a workspace” don’t apply?
Today, the line between work and home may be fuzzy at best, but there are still actions you can take to ensure you keep your sanity and achieve a greater sense of work-life balance.
We’ve compiled a list to help:
While things may seem uncertain now, we do know this can’t last forever. Yes, you’re in the thick of it. But so is everyone else. Maybe your baby just spit-up on you midway through a Zoom meeting with your boss. Maybe you had to lay off half your team, and now you feel like you’re treading water. Maybe you just worked your tail off on a campaign for six weeks only to realize it’s completely irrelevant in the context of this “new normal.” This too shall pass.
Remember that this is temporary. Daycares and schools will reopen, you will eventually head back to the office, and everyone will resume “normal working hours”. While it’s difficult to see the light on the horizon when you can barely keep your head above water, if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how to empathize with others. We should give ourselves the same courtesy.
A viral tweet from Neil Webb, a business development director in London, recently echoed a sentiment he’d heard from others, “You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.”
You can only accomplish so much in a day. For right now, done may have to be better than perfect - and that’s okay.
I’m a big fan of to-do lists. There’s a unique satisfaction that comes with checking things off a list. But like most Americans, my list never seems to end. As soon as I scratch something off, I’m adding two to three new items in its place. During this pandemic, as I attempt to juggle raising two small children and running a business, I’m also trying to be more self-aware. What steps can I take today to ensure I avoid overcommitment and maximize productivity?
Prioritization is key. Identify your most important business objectives and then pursue only projects that will help you achieve those goals. In many cases, this means taking on far fewer projects which may seem counterproductive. But being selective about where you spend your time will ensure you’re driving the most value for your business.
According to business coach Bruce Eckfeldt, “Every member of a company should know the eight to 10 key metrics for their role and a handful of strategic goals. If something you’re working on is not tied to one of these metrics, you’re best off letting someone else take it on.”
Many tech companies are currently offering free trials or basic-level packages to help employees ease the transition to remote work. Whether you’re new to working from home or a seasoned veteran, consider deploying new tools or technologies to help you increase efficiency, drive productivity, and improve collaboration with distant colleagues.
Web conferencing software can help you keep audiences more engaged than you would on a phone call, business IM can get you answers you need faster than email, and cloud storage software can help you simplify approval workflows. Your remote work setup may not be perfect due to extenuating circumstances, but if used in the right way, technology can significantly reduce stress and accelerate the time it takes you to complete certain tasks. Most of these tools are very easy to get set up and intuitive to use.
During a Zoom meeting the other day, one of the participants, a man in his early 30s, was nearly falling asleep. He told me he had a two-year-old and a 10-week old at home with him and was having trouble working for long sprints during the day due to their (totally natural) demands on his time. Because he was finding it difficult to get anything done during normal business hours, he was staying up late into the night and waking up early before the kids to complete work projects - sometimes only logging two or three hours of sleep at night.
This is not by any means an okay way to live. In fact, it’s the easiest way I can think of to get burnt-out, run-down, and diminish your overall quality of life. There is a reason sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture and any new parent can attest to its effectiveness.
Is everyone able to get an 8+ workday in right now? No. Is that ok? Yes. Just because you have other demands on your time during the day during a global crisis, does not mean you need to work through the night. Nor should you try. Set expectations around when you’re available to work and be honest about the fact that you’ll need to break for distractions. Log additional (reasonable) hours outside of “working hours” if required to complete projects, but set boundaries for yourself and others regarding when you’ll shut down for the day, and if at all possible, allow time for yourself in the morning to ease into the day before starting work.
Working from home may be difficult right now, but it’s on you to develop a schedule that works for you and your family and set the proper expectations with your employer.
Are you finding it difficult to work from home during the global pandemic? Let us know what you think on Twitter and/or Linkedin via the links below: