The coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on our lives and will continue to do so for some time.
As government’s around the world begin to remove social isolation restrictions, businesses are scrambling to adapt their business models to cope with the ‘new normal’. With more people working from home and the influx of children being homeschooled, the concept of work–life balance takes on a whole new meaning.
On the upside, many of us have extra time available as we have less travel time and perhaps less interruptions from work colleagues. That’s not to say technology issues and home distractions can’t create havoc when trying to get things done.
Balance is a concept that might not come naturally to many of us in times of change. Knowing this, how can you maintain the right work–life balance for improved wellbeing and performance during a pandemic? With the right solutions.
Create clear boundaries
Boundaries help us compartmentalise work activities from other life events, enabling us to switch off from our daily work. The risk when working from home is that boundaries become blurred, resulting in us spending more time working because we are actually getting less done. This has to do with Parkinson’s law where work expands to fill the time for completion.
In one study, shared by Harvard Business Review, workers spent on average 40% more time working. By thinking we have more time available (due to less commuting, impromptu meetings and others), many become less effective and efficient. Creating clear boundaries such as a clear start time, lunch and finish time can help you navigate the balancing act. Wearing work clothes during work hours can also help put you in the right mental frame for work rather than relaxing in your pyjamas all day.
Satisfy your need to connect
Social isolation has different effects on people. Extroverts living alone are often craving for more social interaction and can find the current restrictions tough to deal with. Alternatively, introverts may be equally challenged when family members of flatmates are within earshot for days on end. The key is to recognise our own connection needs and those of the others we work and live with. From there, you can work towards finding a happy medium. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it is important in the long run if this working format is to continue.
Flexibility helps your sanity
Every working from home scenario is different. Some live alone; others live in shared houses. Some have their own desk and office space while others find themselves trying to work at the dining table with three kids. We all have different work environments to contend with and need to adapt or be flexible to discover what works best. Consider changing your working hours to allow for higher productivity time blocks whenever possible to give yourself the best chance of accomplishing tasks each day.
Maintain sufficient levels of energy
To produce our best work, we need optimum levels of energy. There are two ways to enhance this.
Movement creates energy. When you work from home, it is critical to find ways to exercise and stretch stagnant muscles from sitting all day and possibly night. Even if it is just getting up and going for a walk or doing a few stretches, regular breaks with movement is essential. I find that a strong morning routine, which includes exercise, stretching and mindfulness, makes a big difference in cultivating a healthy mental state.
Focus where your attention goes and energy will flow. It is estimated that we have between 50–60 thousand thoughts a day, most of which we aren’t consciously aware of. The good news is that we get to choose what we focus on and, therefore, choose what we feel.
Of course, there will be times when we will feel down and may struggle to cope with the new demands and restrictions on our lives. But having the power to change our thinking patterns and develop useful, empowering beliefs will help energise you.
Also, I highly recommend limiting the attention on coronavirus updates to once or twice a day – anymore is just feeding too much negative energy into your brain.
Track your progress to see success
People perform better when they are keeping score. Most of us have KPIs that guide where we focus our attention for work purposes. However, when it comes to tracking progress on other Key Life Areas (KLAs) many people lack a consistent, meaningful approach.
KLAs might include health and fitness, key relationships, career, financial, community and spiritual connection, and leisure and fun. During these times, it is more important than ever to have a clear picture on how things are tracking in different life areas so course corrective action can be taken as required. At regular intervals (fortnightly or monthly) simply ask yourself:
- How satisfied am I in this KLA?
- What can I do to improve things?
- What will I do?
For each KLA, you might give yourself an indicative rating out of 10 so you can track progress over time. The important thing to note is if one area is slipping. Unless some sort of action is taken, it is rare that it will magically self-correct. Some intentional changes usually need to be made to help bring better balance.
Following these five key principles will ensure you’re far happier and more productive as a result.