Achieving Work-Life Balance During COVID-19 & Beyond
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COVID-19 has caused many of us to experience a wide range of negative emotions that can affect our work-life balance. In our discussion with Mary Shores we learn about the emotional impacts of the pandemic, how these feelings influence our thoughts and attitudes about work-life balance, and what the path to achieving work-life integration and balance looks like.
Emotional Impacts of COVID-19
We often think of the economic repercussions of and detriments to physical health caused by COVID-19, but it’s also important to take time to identify the negative emotions we may be experiencing as a result of the pandemic. And those of us who have been fortunate enough to keep our jobs during this pandemic are not immune to those negative impacts.
In addition to dealing with the anxiety of the pandemic, many have had to abruptly make a rapid transition to remote work. On top of that, many employees must take on the responsibility of caring for their children throughout the work day due to COVID-19 related shutdowns, regulations, and guidelines. This is a new experience for many of us!
Common Negative Emotions
The first step to achieving work-life balance during the pandemic is to identify your emotions!
Many of these emotions are exacerbated by isolation. So to achieve work-life balance during COVID-19, we must also address the issue of isolation.
Isolation & Work-Life Balance
Isolation is an agitator that causes other issues we’re experiencing to seem more prominent, loud, and intense. This means that any internal or external issues you had been dealing with before the pandemic may be more difficult to deal with now.
Dealing With Isolation During COVID-19
If you’re feeling isolated, just know that you’re not alone and that these feelings will not last forever. Here are two actions you can take in the meantime to more effectively deal with feelings of isolation:
- Establish routines to start and end your day. Replicate your pre-pandemic routines to the fullest extent. For example, do something that signifies the beginning & end of the work day such as going out to grab coffee in the morning or watching your favorite show in the evening.
- Communicate with your team frequently and intentionally. Participate in virtual team bonding and schedule frequent check-ins and meetings via voice or video conferencing, with a specific agenda in mind for each.
How COVID-19 is Changing Attitudes About Work
According to Mary, forty-seven percent of employees are currently considering a career change. Many also feel that their employer’s COVID-19 response was either unfair or unsafe. In the future, we may see new attitudes about work emerge such as the following:
- Needing more meaningful work
- Prioritizing flexibility with personal and family needs
- Seeking employment at humanitarian-focused companies
- Avoiding companies that engage in unethical practices
The Pyramid Method of Understanding Work-Life Balance
Mary’s pyramid helps us understand the factors that influence a healthy work-life balance and work-life integration. When our basic needs of being heard, understood and feeling safe/secure are met, our body releases “happy hormones” (like Dopamine and Serotonin) in the positive feelings zone of the pyramid.
This allows us to enter the connection zone of the pyramid. In this stage Mary says, “things just start to work out for you and it feels good, so naturally you find yourself feeling happier.”
You trust your co-workers and feel confident taking on the day, anticipating that you’ll experience positive things. Having this outlook allows us to then see our world and connections as our allies. In this stage of the pyramid we feel confident that our allies will help us survive and thrive.
When we direct our attention to being viewed as an ally by others, we then move to the strategy portion of the pyramid. This involves devising an action plan in order to be recognized as an ally by other individuals. Once we are able to view others as allies and they concurrently consider us to be their ally, we move into the top portion of the pyramid where we begin to make more money and feel more satisfied.
To summarize, Mary’s Pyramid Method of understanding work-life balance and work-life integration shows us that in order to achieve success in our work & personal life, our personal needs should be met first and then we must build positive relationships with others.
One way to achieve true work-life balance is to focus on work-life integration. Mary believes that you achieve true balance when all of the things you do support your prominent life goals. You achieve true balance when your work and job align with what you envision as the individual you are truly meant to be.
If you haven’t taken the time to envision your goal self, ask yourself what it would look like to have all of your dreams come true. Then, ensure that each action you take brings you a step closer in the direction of that vision.
Your work should bring you a step closer to achieving your vision. If not, you’re moving away from achieving your life goals. “You will feel balanced automatically when your life and work are aligned,” Mary says.
Strategies for Achieving Work-Life Balance
The Cleansing vs. Clogging Method
Is what you’re doing today cleansing or clogging your path to achieving your vision?
Before you act, consider whether you’d identify what you’re about to do as either cleansing or clogging. Engaging only in cleansing actions will bring you closer to achieving your goals.