We’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Yes, a year has gone by, and we are in full swing of the vaccination rollout. But lots of us are still working remotely. We could continue working remotely, even after the world is vaccinated. But who knows? We’re dealing with virus variants, and the statistics on COVID-19 cases seem to rise and drop inexplicably. No one can speak definitively about the future.
If the pandemic has done anything, it has forced us into thinking deeper about life. For me, it’s an existential awakening that enables me to appreciate those around me even more. Thus, I have started to redefine work-life balance.
Ways to Rethink Work-Life Balance
In her article for The Enterprisers Project, a website dedicated to supporting CIOs and IT leaders, Victoria Roos Olsson offers several ways to reconsider this balance. She tells us to reflect on why it matters. “We need a work-life balance to feel good, but also to do good,” she writes. “And when I say, ‘do good,’ I am referring to brainpower, decision-making, creativity, empathy, problem-solving, etc. — all those qualities we need to be a good leader, parent, or contributor. So work-life balance is not ‘nice to have’ – it’s critical.”
Roos Olsson also suggests that we create real workspaces — if possible, quiet places where we can think and make decisions. I have a home office, but I have been known to scatter papers on the kitchen table as well. “Don’t forget factors such as temperature, air quality, and lighting,” Roos Olsson says. “We all know how draining it can be to sit in a small, uncomfortably warm space all day. Consider getting a flexible desk that allows you to either stand or sit (and perhaps be adjusted to accommodate the height of various family members).”
The Pandemic Will End … Ultimately
Other suggestions include setting boundaries, finding moments of stillness, and connecting with others. Most poignant, at least to me, was No. 7 on Roos Olsson’s list: “Remind yourself that this pandemic will not last forever.” That’s key. We do have to think about life after COVID-19.
“And while not everything will go back to the way it was before, many things will,” she says. “Take another deep breath and consider the perks of the life you are leading now. Define what’s positive for you and the people around you. Cherish it.”
Work-Life Balance Abroad
In her article, “Why a Work-Life Balance Matters Now More than Ever,” Sasha Baez compares Americans’ concepts of work-life balance to those in European countries, like the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, and others. We might learn something from colleagues abroad.
According to Baez, “1.4% of Americans work 50 or more hours per week versus 0.5% of people in the Netherlands who work those long hours.” She adds that “the average American is therefore only setting aside 14.4 hours for leisure and personal care (including eating and sleeping) a day versus those in the Netherlands who dedicate 15.9 hours.”
The Danish Welfare Model, she adds, is characterized by the quality of life and an excellent work-life balance. It offers “flexible working conditions and social support networks, including maternity leave and childcare facilities, and a high degree of flexibility at work – often including adaptable start times and the ability to work from home.”
Take Some Time Off
Baez reports that “33% of working American adults work over the weekend and on holidays. This, in turn, has led 66% to say they don’t feel they have a good work-life balance. One of the main drivers contributing to the need to always be ‘on’ and available is 24/7 technology.”
Several of my female associates have taught me that work-life balance is an individual thing. What works for me may not work for someone else. The important thing is to take a little extra time for yourself, your family, and friends. The work will still be there in the morning.