Q: I’ve been working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and it seems that I’ll continue to do so. It’s difficult to juggle working remotely with my children’s online schooling and finding time for myself. How do I find a better work-life balance?
A: Although many people worked remotely before COVID-19, the ongoing pandemic has resulted in more people working from home than ever before. As physical boundaries between work and personal life blur, it can become difficult to manage the two worlds, especially when you have children.
But instead of trying to separate your professional and personal lives, focus on ways to effectively integrate them. Since each family and each person is different, finding the key to effectively blend work and personal life is an individual one.
First, recognize that what works for you may not work for your spouse or children. Have a family conversation to identify what matters most to each of you. With the whole family taking part, you’re more apt to achieve your goals for navigating remote work, schooling and other priorities.
A crucial step in achieving good work-life integration is to create and maintain a routine. Make a list of the things each day that you need to do or want to do. Build a schedule around those items.
That schedule will help you identify when work begins and ends, and when you can integrate activities that are important.
For example, if you used to get up and go to the gym, put it on your calendar that at 7 a.m. you will go outside for a walk or a run. Then come home, take a shower and “go” to work.
Many patients talk about missing meals because they are tied to phone calls and video chats, and can’t (or forget to) take a break. Schedule time to get up stretch, and get a drink or snack. Your mind will be rejuvenated.
Another strategy that can help you better achieve good work-life integration is to adopt a concept called “delegate, delete and do.”
People often begin to feel anxious or overwhelmed when they are juggling too much.
If that happens, pause and take an inventory of all the things on your plate, whether it’s work-related or not. Write them down. Then, assess each item on the list and honestly ask yourself if this is something that is important, something you need to do, or something that can wait.
Often you’ll find there are things that could be delegated and other things can be taken off the priority list or even deleted.
Develop a strategy where you can identify the two or three things on your list that must get done today and do them first, if possible. That can help manage feelings of being overwhelmed.
To allow for better integration of your work and personal life, remember to include tasks or priorities from your personal life, as well. It may take practice, but it is important to schedule time for the seemingly small things, whether it is making a grooming appointment for your pet or a reservation for a family dinner.
Here are some other tips to help you feel more organized and in control while working at home:
• Create a work space that’s free from distractions. Clutter and noise can make it difficult to concentrate, potentially affecting your productivity.
• Schedule breaks. Get into the habit of taking short breaks to stand up and stretch or longer breaks to grab a coffee or go for a walk.
• Close the door. If you can do so, close the door to your work area at the end of day. That will signify that it’s now personal time.
• Avoid working when it’s family time. Resist checking e-mail at the dinner table or when you’re watching a movie with the kids. And refrain from logging in and doing work when you can’t sleep. Instead, read a book or take a brief walk.
If you continue to struggle with managing work and home life, reach out to your primary health care provider or a trusted community source for additional resources.