Work-life balance during lockdown has been a common topic for clients and friends recently. For a certain number of people lockdown has definitely had its benefits (if they are lucky enough not to be affected directly by the pandemic, of course) such as an end to the commute, fewer external commitments, more time to spend with family or flatmates.
However, one common theme I’ve seen is people working longer hours than they normally would when working at home. Why is this? Well, in part those things that meant you had to leave the office are no longer there: collecting a child from school or nursery, going to the theatre or cinema after work, you literally cannot pretend to be anywhere other than at home, so why shouldn’t you be working all the time?
I think there is a difficult balancing act here: of being grateful for the work in a time when the economy is incredibly precarious, so you want to be seen as totally committed to your role and company; but equally that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be working for an extra day per week for no more money, which I know some people are doing. Is it okay that your boss asks you for a catch up meeting on a Friday when you don’t work on Fridays? No, it’s not. Here are four things you can do to redress the balance:
Plan your week
This may sound obvious, but lots of people don’t do this efficiently. Start by making a list of all the things you need to do that week. Then split the list into things you need to do, things you feel you should do, and things you want to do. Take the’ shoulds’ off your list. You’re busy and your time is precious, so you need to focus on what is necessary. Schedule your week and make sure that you include time for meals, exercise and enough sleep – which are easy not to prioritise when you are overwhelmed. Stick to your timetable. Remember it is there to keep you on track and to support you – and don’t forget to include some time just for fun.
We all need boundaries to keep work as just that: work. Make sure that you have clear times when you are - and aren’t - working. This involves being assertive with yourself and others, valuing your time and knowing the importance of a work-life balance. It may be that your boss and colleagues have no idea of the extra hours that you are putting in as they are unable to see you in the office, but please work out what your boundaries are, respect them and realise the importance of balance.
A Perkbox survey this earlier this year found that 79% of British adults in employment commonly experience work-related stress. This is 20% higher than 2018's findings (and was completed before lockdown began). Learning ways to keep your stress in check are essential for all.
If you need to, turn notifications off for your work emails after you have finished for the day – or even switch your phone off all together. You will benefit from the headspace and you will be more productive the following day having had a proper break.
Make time for social interaction
Being at home all the time can be tough on our mental health. It is important for all of us to keep our social interactions up. Make sure you plan time in your week for catching up with friends and family. If you fancy more than a just a chat, there are loads of online quizzes, cocktail making classes and many other options where you can do things with your friends. Maybe you could have a virtual meal together or even have a cook-a-long as you both prepare the same recipe. As humans we are wired for connection and lockdown is taking that basic need away from us so do ensure that you fulfil it as best you can.
Talk to someone
If at any point everything feels too much, please talk to someone: a colleague, friend, your boss or your GP would all be good starting points. In addition, there are also charities out there who offer support. Reaching out is often the first step towards feeling better. I volunteer for Shout on 85258 and I can highly recommend their service for people who are in crisis.
I'm a Personal Coach who loves finding out about what makes people tick and helping them to make the changes necessary to get to where they want to go so they can thrive.