When historians write about COVID-19's effects on our families and jobs, work-life balance is a topic you'll find at the heart of any good analysis. Many of us have had our personal and professional lives transformed overnight. As parents, it's essential to remember that children have had their lives turned upside down, too. But keeping this perspective is only the first step in a plan for caring for your family while preserving your productive capacity and mental health amid a crisis.
DON'T OVERLOOK COMMUNICATION.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but we've seen more than a few people forget that those of us who have the relative luxury of working from home are doing so during a pandemic. You might be juggling homeschooling and activities for your kids, looking after elderly or ill relatives, or sharing household obligations with your partner. Even grocery shopping takes an average of two hours longer than before.
Whatever it may be, talk to your colleagues, your supervisors, and your family. By communicating, you set expectations and prevent miscommunication, which sustains morale at home and with your work team. This is especially important for families coping with realities like the digital divide or essential work. It's also how you can begin to create boundaries and personal space to take care of your commitments efficiently.
DEVELOP A ROUTINE RATHER THAN A SCHEDULE.
While schedules detail exact times for specific activities, routines allow flexibility in your day by just establishing an order of tasks. If you have children, use a visual aid to chart work-week responsibilities and blocks for leisure. Standardizing Mondays to Fridays helps young ones adapt and anticipate their days and yours. If you need more time with a work project or on a chore, your routine leaves you with room to complete it without interrupting an arbitrary time limit.
MAKE TIME FOR FAMILY AND FUN.
Just as building some daily structure is key to finishing your assignments and helping your children with theirs, you don't want to smother your family with a mantra of productivity over everything. Be sure to have fun during the day, too! Go for walks, listen to music, watch something, bake something, play a game, read for pleasure, or just rest and relax.
ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENT PLAY.
Let your kids decide what they would like to do at some point during the day. It enriches their imagination and supports their agency as individuals. Provided they have a safe space to do their own thing, whether it be legos, puzzles, art, or toys, giving them that freedom also allows you to focus on what you need to.
KEEP SPACE FOR WORK.
Communication, routines, recreation time, and independent play will assist you in designing a clean and quiet workspace for yourself and, if you have one, your significant other. However, no situation is perfect, and your colleagues expect an occasional interruption from family on a video call. We're still in a crisis, and so are our colleagues; shared experiences lead to greater understanding.
Practice patience with yourself and others and follow these steps to adjust to the moment.