7 ways to redefine work-life balance during the pandemic

Many of us will continue to work at home, simultaneously juggling multiple roles, for some time to come during the pandemic. Consider these tips to stay healthy and productive
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Are you a leader? A working parent? A busy contributor?

Pause for a moment and take a deep breath. As you know, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. While there’s good news about vaccines coming, it does little to change our current situation. Many of us will continue to work at home, simultaneously juggling multiple roles, for some time to come.

[ Are you jub hunting right now? Read also: How to get a job during COVID-19: 9 smart tips. ]

If you’re asking yourself “What can I do to keep it together? How do I stay sane and keep a healthy work-life balance?,” you’re not alone. Here are seven ways to redefine work-life balance during the pandemic:

1. Reflect on why work-life balance matters to you. Why is it important? If you don’t maintain a healthy work-life balance, what will the consequences be? What will happen if you continue doing what you are doing now for another six months, or even a year?

We need a work-life balance to feel good, but also to do good. And when I say, “do good,” I am referring to brainpower, decision-making, creativity, empathy, problem-solving, etc. – all those qualities we need to be a good leader, parent, or contributor. So work-life balance is not “nice to have” – it’s critical.

[ Read also: COVID-19 leadership lessons: 5 ways to help your team recharge. ]

2. Define your home office. Remove the “temporary” sign and make your workspace work for you. Even if you are sharing it with others, this is where you do your work using your brainpower, decision-making, creativity, empathy, problem-solving, etc. and that means your space should be as free from distractions as possible. Ask yourself: does this space gives me energy? What can I do to make it feel like my special creative space?

Remove the "temporary" sign and make your workspace work for you.

There are no corporate or HR rules to define what your special place should look like. I knew I’d succeeded when the rest of my family started to beg to be allowed to come and do their school assignments and work meetings in my office.

Don’t forget factors such as temperature, air quality, and lighting. We all know how draining it can be to sit in a small, uncomfortably warm space all day. Consider getting a flexible desk that allows you to either stand or sit (and perhaps be adjusted to accommodate the height of various family members).

3. Set boundaries. Establish a clear start and end point to your workday. Even having coached many leaders in the past months on how to work remotely, I struggle with this.

Studies suggest that eliminating the daily commute was a win for most of us. But the flip side is that we are spending that time on additional work. All our devices are right there in front of us, tempting us to do just one more email, one more report, one more quick check-in.

Here is another advantage of creating a separate workspace: You can leave it. Maybe you can even close the door. Set your office hours and stick to them. Don’t abandon the habit of weekly planning; expand it. Communicate it to everyone who shares your office space, including spouses, children, roommates (and maybe even pets if they are part of your weekly plan and daily activities!).

4. Keep moving! It’s said that sitting for four hours without proper movement can shorten our lives by 11 minutes. Hold a “walk and talk” meeting with a team member. Keep your yoga pants on so you can quickly move to the mat when the workday is finished. Engage the family in a pre-dinner dance party or a plank challenge. A standing desk can also help you stay more active even while you’re working.

An advantage of remote work: Nobody will notice if you sit down and close your eyes for a moment.

5. Find moments of stillness. Another advantage of remote work: Nobody will notice if you sit down and close your eyes for a moment. Find a quiet corner and take a moment to just sit and think. Seeing things from a new perspective can generate new ideas. Take a quiet walk before an important meeting. Stillness creates space that helps us make better decisions.

6. Connect with others. Spend time with others outside your immediate circle. Remember back when we could grab coffee with a colleague and chat about work, social activities, weekend plans, or just about anything else? Many people feel overwhelmed by meetings these days. That’s in part because of what’s missing: small talk. Connections. Reach out to a colleague or someone you haven’t spoken to recently and catch up over a 20-minute virtual coffee break.

7. Finally, remind yourself that this pandemic will not last forever. And while not everything will go back to the way it was before, many things will. Take another deep breath and consider the perks of the life you are leading now. Define what’s positive for you and the people around you. Cherish it.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Victoria Roos Olsson is a senior leadership consultant at FranklinCovey. She is an expert in leadership development and has trained, developed, and coached managers around the world for the past 20 years. She has also led learning and development divisions for large corporations in Europe and the Middle East, including Jumeirah and Hilton.


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