It’s hard to believe that Friday the 13th (March 13th, to be exact) was the last dose of “normalcy.” Since then, most of us have been in quarantine and have had to adapt very quickly to a new way of living.
Even as a long-time remote worker, I’ve had to adjust my work-life balance in this unique situation. I believe that doing so has made me not just a better employee but also a better person for my family, my community, and myself. For anyone struggling to find a healthy balance with all the new stresses and added responsibilities, you’re not alone. Nearly 36 percent of companies are encountering challenges with managing employee mental health on account of social isolation and economic anxiety, according to a recent global survey by Mercer. Even before COVID-19 came crashing in, 69 percent of employees felt that it was safer to remain silent about workplace stress.
That’s why I want to share what’s helped me so far. Now more than ever, we need to talk about it and share the best practices we’ve discovered for coping with work-life balance and managing work-related stress. Here are the top five things I’ve learned during quarantine:
Don’t fight it
We all have different roles we identify with: employee, mentor, parent, caretaker. In normal circumstances, we usually only need to focus on one role at a time. That went out the window when everyone started staying home. We suddenly had to play multiple roles at once. Many of us have even taken on new roles (such as teacher). It can quickly and easily get stressful.
The best way I’ve found to handle it is not to fight it. Rather than trying to silence my kids and point them out the door, I let them see my virtual meetings (and usually wave hello). I’ve had to ask my son to hang out while I finish a call or ask my coworkers to give me a few minutes to calm a six-year-old having a full-on meltdown. My dogs are ecstatic that everyone is home all the time, so they’re far louder than usual. And my cat is the exact opposite—spiteful that we’re taking over the house. I’ve had to apologize for the noise level during meetings more times than I can count.
Fighting to keep these roles separate—parent, professional, pet wrangler, and more—takes a lot of work. Too much work, in my opinion. So instead, try embracing the chaos. It makes things a little easier for everyone.
Learn a new skill…or don’t
Many of us have a lot more free time than before. We’ve all seen the memes that tout a lack of discipline if you aren’t using this time to learn a new skill. And if you have the desire to, fantastic! But, if you’re like me, a full-time working parent who is so over home-schooling, don’t let that get you down. I’m not learning any new skills. By the time the evenings and weekends roll around, I’m usually exhausted—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
So don’t let the societal pressure to learn something new knock you down. If your goal is to binge Netflix or Hulu during every ounce of spare time you have, do it. There is no reason to criticize yourself and feel that you aren’t reaching some arbitrary potential. Do what works for you. You’re already accomplishing so much.
Check in with friends, colleagues, and more
One of our core values here at Simplus is stewardship. Our team lives and breathes this every day. We are always willing to help each other out. Now, more than ever, this needs to extend beyond our virtual workplace.
Check in on each other! Make sure everyone is handling quarantine okay. Be an ear if someone just needs to vent. Offer support if it’s needed. And this goes beyond just your workmates. Check in on your clients, too! Virtually meet up with those friends you haven’t been able to grab coffee with for months. Connecting with others outside of your own household quarantine may be just the refresher you need. These are strange times we’re living in, and everybody is handling it differently. Just taking the time to ask how someone is doing can make their day—and yours!
Take care of yourself
This should go without saying, and we’ve all heard it a million times before, but it must be said again. Take care of yourself. If I am exhausted, and not taking time to recharge, I can’t be there for my kids, my coworkers, or my clients.
Do what helps you. Meditate, try a virtual yoga class, read, ride a bike, take a walk, work on a puzzle—whatever it is that helps you reset. You have to be okay being selfish in this regard, or you’ll burn yourself out. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
It’s okay to feel
Things are strange. The world is different. You may suddenly feel a wide range of emotions. You may not be able to pinpoint what you’re feeling or exactly why you feel that way. It’s okay. Things are confusing, so don’t be afraid to let it out.
For instance, I suddenly felt extremely shaky one evening, and all the noise around me was bothering me. Honestly, it wasn’t even that loud. The kids were quietly talking to each other, and my husband was watching TV. But it was suddenly too much. I told my husband I needed to go sit in silence upstairs and that I felt wrong but didn’t know why. I thought I sounded crazy, but looking back, it was just how I was handling the chaos of that particular day. Don’t be afraid to feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
We’re living through history right now. The world changed in an instant. Learn to adapt to this new world, be there for each other, and take care of yourself.
For more work from home advice, check out Simplus’ Remote Work web page for additional resources. If you’re a business leader adapting your entire organization to this new world, be sure to check out Simplus’ Going Remote webinar series.