Note: This article was originally published on CredibleMind
Not long ago, allowing employees to work from home was a strategy to support work-life balance. With many people now being forced to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, we must reconsider what work-life balance means in this new context. Even before COVID-19, many people found balancing the demands of modern life to be a stressful task, and the pandemic has amplified that stress.
As someone who has worked from home for many years, I wanted to share some strategies that I’ve found helpful for finding work-life balance, now adapted to be relevant for a pandemic.
Double Down on Healthy Habits
Taking care of your physical health will support your mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as your immune system. Drink plenty of water. Eat real (i.e., minimally processed) food, especially vegetables. Do moderate exercise. Get plenty of sleep. Get outside.
Nourish Your Relationships
Remember, “social distancing” does not mean emotional distancing. One of the biggest challenges of working at home is the sense of isolation that can come with it. It’s critical to be intentional about creating meaningful connections with others.
Reach out to people you care about. Talk about your feelings openly with people you trust. Give and receive support as much as you can. Find humor where you can and laugh with others when you can. Laughter reduces stress, improves your mood, and helps your immune system work better.
Establish Good Boundaries
Working in an office automatically creates clear boundaries. While working from home, try to recreate those boundaries as much as possible. Set specific work hours. Create a dedicated space to work. Wear work clothes. Create “rituals” that help you recognize transitions between work, family and leisure time. And if working from home means you have additional free time, commit to using that time for self-care and relationships, not work.
If you are working from home with others (spouses, partners, roommates, etc.), it is important to establish clear agreements about how to share the space. For the first few days make sure to check in with each other to identify what is working and what you might need to change.
People are experiencing many intense emotions in response to the pandemic. Make time to have open conversations about how everyone working in your home is feeling and how you can help each other manage those feelings, as that can have a big impact on the atmosphere.
If you have kids at home, interruptions are probably inevitable. Make clear agreements with your children and/or other adult caretakers to provide for uninterrupted work time as much as possible. If you work in a separate room, close the door and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign.
Monitor your attention. It’s easy to become distracted at home. Don’t multitask. Limit your consumption of news and social media. Consider using an app like Wise at Work to help you stay focused and productive.
Create and Stick to a Routine
Structure and routine during a time of extreme uncertainty is essential to your mental and physical and relational wellbeing. This pandemic is most likely a marathon and not a sprint. Use the above strategies to create conditions and rituals to support you over the long run. Once you fine-tune a routine, keep it consistent.
Be consistent, yes, but don’t become rigid. The situation continues to change rapidly, and our well-being depends on our ability to adapt.
You might think about work-life balance like a scale: when both sides carry equal weight the scale finds a still point in the middle.
But life is not static, it’s dynamic. I find a more helpful way to imagine work-life balance is like riding a bike: you must continually sense and respond to your environment, staying relaxed yet alert and engaged as you make micro-adjustments in each moment.
Focus on What You Can Control
In the midst of so much uncertainty it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by things outside of our control. Make a list of what you actually do have the ability to influence. Focus your efforts on making the best of the situation that you can. Let go of worrying about the things that you cannot change.
We are all in uncharted territory. But these best practices can help you navigate the new terrain with as much ease and grace as possible, given the circumstances. By reflecting on what matters most, connecting with the people you care about, and taking meaningful action, you can find balance within the disruption.