5 Work-Life Balance Tips to Optimize Your Life

The hacks to redraw the line between your personal and work life are here!

A photograph of stones in balance to convey work life balance

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You’re a human being with years of experience. But if the pandemic’s constant interruptions to your work and life have left you feeling that separating your personal life and work is harder than ever, these five tips are for you.

This past year, the fallout from the global pandemic has taken its toll on our wellbeing as we’ve moved so much of our lives online. Isolation, health risks, work concerns, the stress of working from home, not to mention the extra burden on key workers and frazzled parents have made competing pressures harder to juggle. Thankfully, help is at hand from the experts.

1. Time crafting and other productivity tools

Ashley Whillans, author of Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life, understands how many employees, who already thought that the boundaries between work and home were fuzzy, are struggling during the pandemic now that we’re ”basically living at work.”

The challenge (and route to more “time affluence”) for Whilans, is about more than working in a separate part of your home. It’s about understanding that the very tech that saves us time and keeps us in touch, also eats into our ability to relax and do something that will really make us happy.

People who are good at “time crafting” Whilans tells the New York Times, are “very deliberate about setting breaks, boundaries and rituals throughout the day to help ourselves transition from personal to work.” An end-of-day ritual, for instance, could be doing something to signify that your personal time has begun. One to end the week could be making pizza to salsa music with the family, like performance coach Andrew Pain, so everyone knows the weekend is here!

Another tip is to post your schedule at home. This is because time management has become a communal task, so this keeps the people you share your home with updated on your work. This helps them grasp and so better protect the boundaries between your work and personal time.

2. Fake commutes

We all know what “pandemic fatigue” feels like.” But more people are striving to reclaim the natural pauses of pre-pandemic workdays. Things like striving to recreate water cooler chats or going on caffeine runs. Anything to get us away from screens and help us reset.

“Fake commutes” are a growing trend. These give people working from home the mental space to better separate their lives and work. And not heading directly to their workstation gives them the headspace to separate their lives and work.

These pretend commutes around your workday can be a walk or jog around the block, freewriting, or a meditation session outside before the workday starts. Fans report feeling sane, healthy and happy.

3. Embrace parental controls!

Parent blogs are full of the angst of frazzled moms and dads who now find themselves cast in the role of teachers as well as caregivers. They are busy discussing the challenge of home schooling and combining it with remote work.

Julie Morgenstern, a New York productivity consultant and author of Time To Parent, recommends setting boundaries with your children (and pets!). Older kids can learn that their parents need to be in a “do not disturb” mode when they’re working.

Guy Winch, psychologist and the author of Emotional First Aid, suggests parents plan who keeps an eye on the kids and when. People with younger kids, especially if they are single parents, tend to get most of their work done during nap times, when kids are watching TV or other screens, and after their bedtime. 

4. People on the front line…

Frontline workers in healthcare are exposed to the emotional and physical toll of the crisis. With their long and intense working hours, medical professionals are also vulnerable to mental health challenges such as PTSD.  Thankfully, support, on- and offline is available to them.

This resource from the UK’s intensive care society’s wellbeing hub is a good example of how vital staff at the front line can be supported and support each other.

Dr. Shannon Sovndal, who has years of experience as an emergency room doctor, advises healthcare workers on Fierce Healthcare.com that opening up about the sustained stress they face can offer them some relief. Sovndal reminds them of the importance of putting their mask on first before helping others; prioritizing their wellbeing to do the caregiving job they love.

For this doctor, an unrelated hobby provides release. His soothing escape is martial arts, but he emphasizes that activities like music, a bike ride or artwork can also help these key workers regain a sense of control over their lives that helping gravely ill patients can take away.

Exhausted and stressed frontline medic

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5.Teamwork works

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help and support from your employer at this time.

Challenging times like these mean that colleagues in leadership roles can positively impact our  mental health and wellbeing. Things like offering access to mental health support services, encouraging self-care, the sharing of reputable sources, or coping strategies for work and personal life balance.

Just talking to people in an informal way where the communal feelings of uncertainty and stress are shared can be therapeutic.

As an International Labor Organization Report entitled “Managing work-related psychosocial risks during the COVID-19 pandemic” suggests: “They [managers] have a critical role to play in protecting their workers from the stress and psychological pressure generated by the pandemic.” 

Female worker participating in remote video meeting with colleagues

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