The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal
Many people across the country are struggling to maintain their work-life balance because of the pandemic. Workplaces are going fully or partially remote, kids are home from school, businesses are closed, and normal events and gatherings are restricted or canceled.
There are still steps you can take to balance your responsibilities. Here’s how the pandemic may alter work-life balance in the long term and a few tips to help you manage these challenges.
How COVID-19 is changing work-life balance
The phrase “work-life balance” has been a business buzzword for years, and the concept is that employees should avoid letting work overtake their lives. It is part of the conversation about balancing familial and home responsibilities, mental health, exercise, and hobbies with a career.
COVID-19 has altered what a good work-life balance looks like. Parents have to take care of their children as schools and daycares have closed or moved online. Employees are now working from home, making it even more challenging to separate work life from home life. Kitchen tables have turned into workspaces, and Zoom calls can be interrupted by pets, deliveries, and frequent visits from family members.
Work-life balance has never been more challenging. What’s worse is that no one knows when things will return to “normal.” Employees, parents, families, educators, and business owners are tasked with redefining the balance between work and their personal life.
Because many workplaces were already shifting to remote work, it’s likely that some changes will be permanent. New communication technologies will continue to be used for convenience, and businesses are discovering new ways to increase flexibility for their staff and save money with remote work environments.
Many people are dealing not only with the aforementioned challenges but also illness, loss of friends and family members to the coronavirus, or new responsibilities to care for loved ones. Mental health is often at the forefront of conversations surrounding the pandemic. People are going through rapid, drastic changes that can be anxiety inducing and stressful.
Thus, mental health will likely be an even bigger consideration for proper work-life balance long into the future. People have a new respect for parents having to deal with these issues, another consideration that’s not likely to change after the pandemic is over.
How to improve your work-life balance
Despite the challenges, it’s possible to stay healthy and positive. Here are a few ways to improve your work-life balance while managing the new remote pandemic environment.
Find new ways to exercise
While it’s still generally okay to go out for a run or bike ride, you may want to keep some things indoors, especially as the months turn colder. Invest in a yoga mat for home workouts, or search for cardio-heavy workout videos on YouTube. There are easy stretches and exercises you can do in a short amount of time that will help you stay healthy and keep you moving, which can be a major challenge when you work inside all day.
Set strict boundaries at home
Because it’s harder than ever to separate home and work life, come up with boundaries and stick to them. For example, don’t eat lunch or dinner where you work, or make it clear to family members that you’re not available during your working hours for chores or errands.
Another challenge is maintaining social outlets. Suggest to your co-workers that you get together for a Zoom happy hour on Fridays. Schedule weekend virtual hangouts with friends and other family members, or schedule an outdoor, socially distanced coffee if that is within your comfort zone. Talk to people on the phone instead of texting. These small steps will help you maintain a somewhat “normal” social life.
Know when to unplug
Stop when the workday is over, and force yourself to disconnect. Don’t check your email from the couch or try to get a head start on work for the next day. It’s important to take breaks from work and do things you enjoy. Turn off your computer or cellphone notifications for a while so you won’t be tempted to respond.
Find outlets for laughter
Maintaining your sanity requires a bit of levity. After work is over, watch something funny or enjoy a fun read. Play with your kids or your pets for a while. Find your inner child so you can truly smile, laugh, and enjoy yourself. These opportunities are even more important if you’re constantly reading negative news reports or sitting at your computer.
Focus on your mental health
These tips lead to the final point: focus on your mental health. While exercising, setting boundaries, and laughing will help you de-stress, remember that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed. Consider talking to a professional therapist on the phone or in a video conference. Talking things out with someone other than your cat or partner will help you gain perspective and recognize how you can keep improving.
At Georgetown Psychology, we’re here to help during these uncertain and challenging times. We provide therapy services to adults, parents, couples, teens, and children. We offer personalized treatment plans and comprehensive evaluations to help you get the support you need.
Our online therapy options will help you combat the stress and anxiety that may be heightened during the pandemic.
Contact Georgetown Psychology to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation for online therapy with one of our therapists.