Published on 19th May 2020
Work life balance means different things to different people, but it is still a challenge for most of us.
The battle between having a life and reaching our professional goals can be a lot to juggle. In this digital age where your work emails come through to your phone, and you’re always accessible it can be impossible to completely shut off from your working
day… even harder now that you’re working from home. While we all strive for our ‘ideal’ work life balance, finding a balance is not just ‘nice’ it’s necessary. Without some sort of balance, you are going to burn out.
Create some structure
Give yourself some control. Create a routine and stick to it, we’ve all been told to make sure we get up, shower and get dressed before starting the working day but there’s more we can be doing. Some people have been ‘commuting’ while working from home, taking a 30-minute walk before and after work to give yourself time to prepare or unwind. The truth is, it is completely personal just create a routine and stick to it.
There is a Swedish proverb “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” We can give a lot of power to small thoughts, and in most cases, this is disproportionate to the actual size of the issue. Try to stay on the positive side, try not to jump to any conclusions and just focus on the here and now. Try not to feed the feeling that maybe other people don’t think you’re working at home, or your manager must have an issue with you from that singular comment that seemed a bit short. Remember this is new for most people, and it is a different way of communicating. A lot can get lost in the interpretation of some text on a page or screen.
It’s really important to manage expectations, for your colleagues at this time. Clearly communicate what you are and are not able to achieve, set deadlines based on your schedule and stick to them, and say no if you need. This will help you work better as a team and will help your colleagues to understand your workload.
Here's a few ways to keep the peace at home.
Living in tight quarters with your partner, roommate or family for an extended period is not always going to be easy. It is important to remember that everyone is trying to deal with what’s happening in the world at the moment, so kindness is very important to yourself and to others. Try and develop short terms goals together, maybe it’s a DIY project, learning a language or watching a box set. If you need some alone time, communicate it, talk about how you’re feeling and have a little spot you can retreat to. Some regular time apart can help you to self-regulate your stress levels. (this is obviously harder with kids).
If you are dealing with conflict when raising issues try to avoid assigning blame, and use statements using “I” such as “I am really feeling angry about this” this can prevent the other person from being defensive and lead to more constructive conversations. It is also helpful to not assume you know how others are feeling. Try asking open ending questions to truly understand what they are experiencing and think of how you can be of help. It’s a good idea to hit that reset button, forgive and take responsibility for your part, and if you can’t find a resolution agree to disagree and just park the conflict for now. Resolve the conflict later when you have the resources to deal with it better.
Balancing children and home-schooling
You are not going to get everything done. Your little one may have a huge tantrum at the door in the middle of a meeting. It’s ok. It’s unprecedented… so there’s no reason why you should somehow have magically found the perfect hack where the kids all love learning, clean up after themselves and eagerly await to complete any task you give them. You may not be overachieving in the domestic department, the floors may not have been vacuumed, you may be feeling like your just treading water at work, but this is not an ideal scenario. Give yourself a break. If home-schooling isn’t going to plan that day, try and make the most of what you can accomplish and pick up the rest another day.
Expect the unexpected, and try to manage interruptions productively. Explain to your kids what is urgent and what isn’t, and how you would like them to interrupt if they need to. Do you want them to wait at the door? Hand you a note? Say excuse me? Give them guidance.
When you can give your attention, give it. Give it abundantly, make them your sole focus, and put your phone down. Remember this is a strange time for them too.
Explain the situation
Let them know that you have to work and they will need to entertain themselves. Depending on the age of your children think of keeping a box of games/crafts/toys to keep them occupied when they need to wait for your attention, and encourage them to use it. Let everyone know what to expect during the day, write up if the children have chores to do, a home-schooling activity or if you are in a meeting. Remember kids miss structure and routine as much as you. Some parents have kept the school snack and nap times, some have made visual aids add added them to their office door for when or why they should be disturbed, whatever works for your family, but make it clear.
If you have a partner or even older children who are able to help out, divide and conquer the household responsibilities. Work as a team to share the load. Help your kids to help themselves, if they are old enough you could let them access pre prepped food for breakfast, lunch or a snack to prevent them asking when they’re hungry. Encourage siblings to help each other first before coming to you, support them to become more independent.
In your working day try to be organised and efficient, but realistic. Set some time aside to plan your week and keep a to do list. It can also help to have a routine to help manage distractions to help you get back into work easier.
Take care of yourself
Get enough sleep, exercise, eat well and stay hydrated. Ask for help if you need it, and take time off to recharge if you need to. If you burn out, you are no use to anyone.
Balancing your pets
We all love our furry companions but working from home full time is still new, here's a few things to make sure everyone is happy.