By Angela Copeland
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance has always been important. In the past, finding balance was easier. It was obvious when you left your work world and entered your home. It was clear when you weren’t balancing your time well.
For the most part, I would argue that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is as important now as it ever was. It might be more important now. Maintaining mental health is critical to making it through 2020. And one thing that can erode it is a lack of division between work and personal.
The one exception is this. If working nonstop is providing a positive outlet, go for it! But, for the rest of us, we’ve got to find some space between the two worlds.
For most people, the pandemic is the first time we have worked from home for any length of time. Many people are working from their former dining rooms (now converted into makeshift offices). Most people are no longer changing into work attire during the day. We’re wearing hoodies and sweats to our meetings. Our children and pets are popping into Zoom meetings.
And we’re not just taking our personal selves to work. We’re taking our work selves home. The time when work begins, and ends has blurred. Our work supplies and computers are at home with us every day. We may get work calls and texts to our personal phones.
The line between what was our time and what was company time is unclear. And it’s wearing many people down. If you find this is happening to you, look for ways to create worlds that are more separate.
For example, don’t do personal tasks during the day. Don’t respond to personal emails. Don’t make personal calls during work hours. Make work time just that — work time. Then, after a set time in the evening, switch off your work computer. Don’t respond to work email during personal time. Don’t take work calls. Separate the communications by both the hours in the day and the computer you are using.
Consider talking to your colleagues about this goal too. One of the problems in an office is that some folks will send email after work. They may be trying to make a point that they’re working, or they may not think about it. Either way, it puts social pressure on colleagues to do the same. Some folks will call into work meetings, even when they have taken a vacation day. It seems like no big deal. We’re all at home anyway, right? Wrong. This also puts unnecessary pressure on those around you to give up their personal time.
The gains from doing personal things during work hours — or doing work things during personal hours — are very small. But the loss can be huge. Finding this balancing act will help you during the pandemic. Take it seriously and those around you will too.
Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.