Due to recent events, many of us now find ourselves working from home. The initial challenges of transitioning are coming to a close, and SOPs are now beginning to reflect this new environment. While none of us can predict just how long the new norm will last or whether things will ever look like they did pre-pandemic, we have been leaning into the unknown and forging our way forward. With that arises a new challenge – maintaining a healthy work/life balance, since our work is now happening from within our homes.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of being “on” almost every waking moment. An email notification comes in at 8pm, and since it is pushing through to your phone or laptop now, instead of waiting on an in-office workstation until morning, there arises the urge to simply click it open and respond. You wake up a bit early and instinctively get going on work items, even though it’s only 6am… After a few weeks of doing that, you begin to realize that you no longer work a 9-5 job, but a waking-up to falling-asleep job… This is not sustainable, and both your home life and work will begin to suffer as time marches on.
Whether you’ve reached that point, or are simply on your way to reaching it, it is important to acknowledge that a balance must be found, and that boundaries will need to be set to maintain it. Below are a few suggestions to support you in maintaining your mental balance while working from home:
- Set a work schedule.
While there are still many things in flux during this time of transition, implementing a clear and defined set of hours that you will dedicate to work items is just as important as it was pre-pandemic. This will look slightly different for each of us, just as it did before, but having that dedicated start and end time to the work day helps your mind to accept the distinction between “at work” and “at home” while those are both occurring within the same physical space.
- Keep a regular sleep routine.
It’s easy to fall out of a regular sleep routine during this time. The temptation to stay up or sleep in a little later than usual since you don’t have a long commute in the morning can creep in rather quickly. But doing this offsets your internal clock and those effects can hinder your ability to keep yourself focused when you’re “on the clock”. Keeping a regular sleep routine should actually be a fairly easy thing to do, since yes, without the commute, etc. we can be sure to get those full 8 hours and wake up rejuvenated.
- Shake everything else up!
The rest of the day is yours to seize! Embrace the time you have at home and not in your car. This could show up in a million and one ways – spending time with your family, reading, writing, home projects, yard work, building things, working on an old car in the garage, inventing something, video cocktails with other friends and loved ones, cooking, etc. etc. etc. These times may be a new experience to us, but humanity’s most beautiful trait has always been our ability to adapt to change. That change isn’t always the most pleasant, but we persist, nonetheless.
- And lastly, keep your boundaries set and clear.
Right now, everything feels like it is an emergency. We are all in high gear and trying to make sure we do our part to keep our businesses going. When a superior calls us on a day off, the instinct right now is to answer the call and handle whatever it is they need us to do. But unless this was normal practice for your role pre-pandemic (and if it was, perhaps that is something you should stop to look at, as well), then it shouldn’t become part of your normal practice now. Sure, these aren’t normal times, but the point is – they may become the normal times for the foreseeable future. The world has changed, and we are still learning the change with it, but it is still as important as ever to remember that we are not living this life to work, but working to afford to live our lives.
These times are unsettling, but that doesn’t mean we are required to live in a constant state of being unsettled. As easy as it is to lose oneself in the mess whirling around, it is more important now than it has ever been to get clear on a game plan for navigating the new work-from-home norm. Hopefully these few suggestions will get you thinking and will support you in finding that much needed balance.