The recent evolution to work life balance
The concept of work life balance is nothing new. By definition, work life balance is achieving harmony between the different aspects of your life (1). Pre Covid-19, the general consensus seemed to be that having greater flexibility in how and where we work, would mean that we could prioritise the personal parts of our life, thus achieving greater balance.
Fast forward 2 years, and the global pandemic has somewhat forced our hand as our new existence appears to be a little more inline with these ideals. Most of us have;
- reduced, or in fact eliminated our commute;
- are spending more time with our immediate family/households;
- are taking pleasure in the simple things such as a bike ride or a daily stroll;
- and overall, are living life at a generally slower pace.
Finally, a positive in this Covid situation!
For me personally, there have been several positive effects to my family’s work life balance. My husband has spent quality time with both our children, which would have been significantly less in ‘normal’ times, and the division of household work has been far more equitable, meaning my career and business has been able to flourish alongside my husband’s.
More broadly speaking, employers can no longer protest the efficacy and productivity of flexible work practices. We have all been doing it for the past 18 months, and continue to do so.
However, with this cultural shift to work patterns, another new challenge has crept in.
The challenge of finding work life balance has morphed into a battle to achieve work life division.
Whilst society has arguably benefited from slowing down, the physical and mental division between work life and home life has slowly been softening. Sure, there has always been a blurred line, we all have laptops and mobiles and are contactable around the clock. But now that we all have some iteration of a home office (albeit from the dining room table for many), the temptation to work 24/7 seems even greater. Furthermore, working all hours and in the presence of our families has been normalised, which creates quite the slippery slope! Regardless of if you are an employee or a business owner, departing the office/co working space, or your family arriving home, would have punctuated your daily routine and helped your focus shift. But with everyone at home…it’s a bit of a self saucing pudding.
If we are not mindful of this new norm, we are likely to encounter;
- longer working hours (2)
- increased stress
- an inability to compartmentalise work time and family time and be fully present in either
- a lack of real down time
- and a change in output expectation of employers
None of this is healthy or sustainable. The lines have become blurred making it hard to define where work ends and home life begins.
Work life division was perhaps less of an issue 6 months ago when we were in the gritty depths of the pandemic. To be honest, it gave us all something to do. But as life slowly begins to resemble its former self, albeit it peppered with ongoing lockdowns, the broad adoption of new work from home practices means we need to try and reinstate boundaries.
So, how do we create and maintain that division?
Here are some tips you can try and implement to reinforce those boundaries.
- Take time for yourself that is neither work or family focused. Filling your own personal cup will help you fulfil your other commitments.
- Physically close your home office door, or pack away your home office each day. This will help create a physical boundary. Out of site, out of mind!
- Get dressed for work each day. Sure, the track pants and business shirt have been novel, comfy and fun, but getting ‘dressed for work’ helps you shift focus and create definition between the different periods in your day.
- Continue to pack lunch. This gives your day routine and reduces the constant grazing and hanging out in the family kitchen, during the work day.
- Exercisewithoutdevices to help truly clear the mind. If you must take your phone for motivating music, try activating mute or ‘do not disturb’ functions, so that you can maximise the benefits of being away from your desk.
- Organise your phone Apps into work and personal sections, reducing the temptation to continuously check work apps
- Use the scheduled do not disturb function on your phone. At the time of writing this, Apple is rolling iOS 15 out to Beta, and it means you can drill down to customise Do Not Disturb by App and person (3). Once available universally, it will be a fantastic welcome change, supporting people to disconnect when they aren’t working.
- Each day set an alarm for when you want or need to finish work by. When the alarm rings, commit to finishing and turning your computer completely off to avoid the temptation of working well into the evening.
For many of us, returning to the office as we once knew it, is a long way off. Be mindful of the shift in your combined home and work environment and protect your mental health.
If your workload is keeping you in your home office longer than you’d like and blurring the line between work and personal life, why not try outsourcing. You started a business to achieve the elusive work life balance, don’t let a lack of work life division undo your hard work.
Contact us today to see how we can add value to your business, and make your life easier today!