Redefining work-life balance post-pandemic. What does that mean and what does it look like?
Before March 2020, many HR professionals and hiring managers said a wide range of jobs simply couldn’t be performed off-site. Today, many of these same people are taking back their words. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that a wide range of jobs actually can be performed remotely, opening up new opportunities for both employers and employees and signaling a shift in considerations related to work-life balance post-pandemic.
Returning to the ‘new normal’ won’t feel so normal after we’ve spent the last 18 months in this pseudo-temporary series of unknowns. While the future often felt uncertain, those of us fortunate enough to work remotely likely found a new work-life balance post-pandemic. We juggled the demands of constant Zoom calls with the benefits of a reduced commute, a flexible schedule, and control over our working environment.
It’s time to admit it. There are some parts of the pandemic work-life balance that will be missed, but they don’t have to go away entirely. Here are 5 tips to hold onto some of the work from home benefits you’ve gained over the past year, plus how to solve a problem you likely struggled with last year.
A bigger focus on personal care
COVID-19 magnified the importance of physical health and mental well-being in so many ways that didn’t even have to do with coronavirus. It forced us to redefine personal hygiene and discover stressors that we sometimes didn’t know we had. Plus, many of us were faced directly with grief, loneliness, and depression.
All of a sudden, simple things you may have overlooked before were now front and center in our lives and we were forced into caretaker roles for others and for ourselves.
How to maintain it: Check in on others
Maybe there is someone in your life that lives alone. During the pandemic, we checked in on them and maybe even sent them packages or held video calls to see them. Continue to prioritize those simple check-ins to your loved ones as they can be so meaningful. Try setting a calendar reminder to make sure you check in on a regular basis!
How to maintain it: Protect yourself
There’s no such thing as ‘just a cold’ anymore. Pre-pandemic, people would go to work when they didn’t feel well, to avoid taking a sick day while putting others at risk. Now that we’ve seen that we can achieve more effective work-life balance, post-pandemic, if you’re going back to the office, talk to your employer about flexible sick days. Maybe you can work from home on days that you aren’t feeling well, which puts less strain on your body and protects your colleagues. Also, remember that sick days exist for a reason. Make a commitment to yourself to take a sick day when you aren’t feeling your best—just to rest, recover, and decompress.
One of people’s favorite elements of working from home is the flexibility in their schedule that allows for greater work-life balance. In an all-day office setting, unless your employer had a gym or workout area on site it was difficult to work out in the middle of the day.
How to maintain it: Block your calendar
Continue to prioritize your favorite workout or fitness routine by blocking out your calendar to protect it from disappearing. If you were able to squeeze in a quick ab routine between meetings at home, try to continue to make healthy decisions in the middle of your day, whether it’s leaving the office for a quick walk around the block, taking a walking meeting with a colleague, or getting to a gym for a quick workout. In some work settings, this may require a shift in culture to ensure that colleagues respect the calendar. This return to a new normal is the perfect time to start or create a new workplace culture.
Increased Tech Savvy
In the last year, you more than likely used a new technology to connect with someone. You downloaded an app, set up a new account, or spoke with someone that you wouldn’t have otherwise met or reconnected with. This is often cited as another favorite element of this work-life balance – the shift in how we live and work.
How to maintain it: Find new ways to share ideas
Just because we’re able to see each other in person again, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t utilize the tools that helped us to collaborate more effectively and efficiently. Whether in your work life or personal life, don’t forget about these tools or get complacent with how they’re used. Ask your employer to continue to pilot new technologies and software, even if the company adopts a more in-person culture again.
Getting comfortable with imperfection
COVID-19 created some weird situations. We all had our share of hard to hear/see video calls, slow internet, and “you’re on mute” meetings. We got comfortable with sharing a piece of our personal lives in new ways through video backgrounds, home schooling, dogs barking, bad hair days, and everything in between.
But somehow, all of those things were okay. We were all forgiving of this imperfection because our entire society was facing the challenge together. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a safe space for people to be themselves and provide space for imperfection.
How to maintain it: Forgive and forget
We cannot lose this forgiving spirit when we ‘return to normal.’ We must continue to accept others, always giving them the benefit of the doubt and we must also allow ourselves to be imperfect as well. This requires continuous check-ins with yourself, allowing bad hair days, sick days for mental or physical health, and recognizing that sometimes you may have priorities that take precedent over work and require sacrificing perfection to maintain healthy work-life balance. While it takes time to get comfortable with imperfection, you will be mentally and physically more resilient for it.
Reinvent your routine
During the pandemic when you were at home all of the time, it was more difficult than ever to unplug or separate yourself from work life and personal life. However, it was also more important than ever to unplug and create that mental separation, even if you couldn’t have the physical separation. If this wasn’t your strong suit and you ended up responding to emails in the late evening or early morning, now is the time to change that behavior.
If you’re back in an office, traveling, or meeting people in-person, try to avoid getting back to your computer as soon as you get home. Avoid falling into the routine of maintaining a constant connection after a long day of in-person meetings. Since it’s been a while, you might recognize the stress, anxiety, and strain that traveling puts on your body. Just because you were ‘out’ doesn’t mean you weren’t working. Be kind to yourself, remembering that you may not get to every email in your inbox that day like you used to when you were at home.