Work life balance: Everything you need to know to stay sane

Work-life balance is one of these corporate-y words that nobody likes to think about. However, when you take that out of it and make it about life (which is what it’s always been about), the game changes.

Exploring the term work-life balance is especially important during COVID 19 work from home time since it’s basically been turned on its head.

“Remote working certainly has some perks during the COVID-19 crisis. Social distancing and shelter-in-place are two of the best ways to help combat the virus since it encourages people to stay indoors and not head over to the office. But the additional free-time that comes with no commutes and standing in traffic for countless hours means US workdays are up by three hours since the rise in the coronavirus outbreak,” according to new data from NordVPN Teams.

“The data as well revealed that employees are starting work earlier, but finishing at the same time. This is perhaps because people are not commuting, and instead of sitting in traffic, they choose to work,” NordVPN digital privacy expert Daniel Markuson said in a press statement.

That’s almost 40% in the US, folks, meaning that Americans are now working 11-hour workdays. But it doesn’t stop there.

According to Bloomberg, “An executive at JPMorgan Chase & Co. gets unapologetic messages from colleagues on nights and weekends, including a notably demanding one on Easter Sunday. A web designer whose bedroom doubles as an office has to set an alarm to remind himself to eat during his non-stop workday. At Intel Corp., a vice president with four kids logs 13-hour days while attempting to juggle her parenting duties and her job.”

“Six weeks into a nationwide work-from-home experiment with no end in sight, whatever boundaries remained between work and life have almost entirely disappeared,” the article goes on to say. “Long gone are the regretful formalities for calling or emailing at inappropriate times. Burnt-out employees feel like they have even less free time than when
they wasted hours commuting.”

One vice president and general manager of U.S. sales and marketing at Intel, Rachel Mushahwar, even told Bloomberg she had been wearing the exact same outfit since Monday and that she believed she had showered three times.

Sound familiar? Us, too.

In a time where you can no longer hide in your cubicle, or really at all, boundaries are basically gone.

But being aware of what’s going on right now is half the battle.

Getting pulled in directions you don’t want to be pulled in

“Because many employees experience a personal, professional, and monetary need to achieve, work-life balance can be challenging. Employers can help employees achieve work-life balance by instituting policies, procedures, actions, and expectations that enable them to pursue more balanced lives, such as flexible work schedules, paid time off (PTO) policies, responsibly paced time and communication expectations, and company-sponsored family events and activities,” according to The Balance Careers.

But what about employers that specifically do not encourage work-life balance?

If you’re getting pulled into directions you don’t want to be pulled in, again, the first step is awareness.

The only reason you work is to be able to live your best life. Everything else is meaningless.

Take it all out of the equation. There, that’s better, isn’t it?

The best part of “work-life balance” is that it means you get to stay you. Your life is more important than work. Always.

Separate your personal and professional lives and realize you only have one

Hide everything that reminds you of work when you’re not working. Go on. You’ll thank me later.

Hide that computer cord. Put a blanket over your work desk if you need to. Again, work is literally not a part of your actual life.

Set major boundaries

Working extra hours you’re not being paid for? Set a boundary.

Worried your boss might throw a fit? They will actually respect you more and leave you alone more in the long-term.

Don’t want to be tied to your computer all day long or receive harassing messages about how you’re not doing enough? Speak up for yourself!

Don’t put up with any unnecessary stuff because you’re scared to get fired. If it’s not working for you and it’s not fair, talk to someone about it.

You have so, so much power over your life. Don’t be afraid to exercise it!

For the best work-life balance, turn off your notifications, put yourself on Do Not Disturb, mode, and do what you need to do to keep yourself happy and comfortable.

People, especially strangers at work, will try to push every boundary you have. It is your job (no pun intended) to make your life livable.

Learn to listen to yourself and to drown out other voices

One of the most important skills I’ve learned is that for every two people I go to for an opinion on something, there will always be a third person who tells me something completely different.

The moral of the story is that you can (and should) make listening to yourself a priority in your life. It is the only way to keep your boat from needlessly rocking. Always keep your options open and network even if you’re employed

The best thing about having other options besides, well, having other options? You don’t rely on any opinion about your performance except yours.

Your confidence becomes higher with your current employer because you, well, have other options.

It’s so easy and important to keep those relationships going. After all, you might need a favor one day and be shocked at how quickly you can find another opportunity.

Prioritize your health

You know those times you know you should stop working but you keep doing it anyway?

That’s ok to do sometimes, but when you do it all the time, you put yourself at risk of not being the healthiest you.

Your health is always more important than your work. Working too much and not keeping a healthy balance i.e. ignoring that little voice that tells you you need to stop has an effect on your mood, self-esteem, and relationships. It’s up to you to keep that in check.

Keep up that exercise routine, make sure you get yourself to the grocery store, and, whatever you do, don’t lose sight of what actually matters.

There will always be someone making unreasonable demands of you. To combat this, practice setting boundaries and getting what you want.

“Your overall physical, emotional and mental health should be your main concern. If you struggle with anxiety or depression and think therapy would benefit you, fit those sessions into your schedule, even if you have to leave work early or ditch your evening spin class. If you are battling a chronic illness, don’t be afraid to call in sick on rough days. Overworking yourself prevents you from getting better, possibly causing you to take more days off in the future,” according to Business News Daily.

Schedule chunks of time, then stop

One of the most effective strategies for doing work when I frankly don’t feel like it (which is normal and makes sense) is to schedule 15-minute (or even ten or five) chunks of time during which you must do work.

The Ultradian Rhythm is a recurrent period or cycle that is repeated throughout the day. That means you have natural, predictable cycles and that taking breaks actually gives you more energy.

When you work for more than a certain period of time, this energy starts breaking down.

The way to circumvent this “issue” (that doesn’t involve beating yourself up) is to schedule your tasks around your energy levels, time. Hint: for lots of people the best time is early in the morning.

How to know if you’re up to doing a task right now? Check your energy levels, not your to-do list. It might also be helpful to map out the times your energy levels are higher, or lower.

Energy is the currency of success, not time. I find that this system solves most problems.

You do not need to spend every second of your day doing work. It makes sense to take breaks, even if someone is trying to manipulate you into not taking breaks.

This is how you thrive. This is how we are wired. If someone wants to be unhealthy, let them but don’t buy into any of it.

Instead, take breaks, water your plants, watch the birds singing in the trees, whatever makes you feel calm and like you.

The life part of work-life balance

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t talked much about the life part of work-life balance. That’s because if you take care of these other parts, you can focus all of your energy on things that actually matter.

Separate them and see how your life changes instantaneously.

After all, life speaks for itself.