By Ozlem Aydin
Many of us had to restructure our work-life balance when work from home became the new norm. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, most would agree finding the medium between the two was already a difficult task. So, how do you find balance when work has now shifted into our personal homes?
Work-life balance can mean something different to all of us. What works for you may not work for me and vice-versa. Especially if you are taking care of children or elders in that same personal space. Having extra responsibilities added on to the day is bound to distract us from our work and impact our focus. So, how do we go about finding our work-life balance?
1. Define what works for you
What time of day are you most productive? There’s no sense in sitting behind a laptop if you’re going to be distracted the entire time. Identify the hours that you’re most productive and likely to get work done. You may need to step-away to help with family duties at certain times of the day or week. Have periodic discussions with your supervisor and keep them in the loop about your schedule changes.
2. Establish healthy boundaries
Boundaries are specific to an individuals’ needs and can look different for most. What I learned about setting boundaries is that to get what we need we must be willing to ask for it. We do ourselves a disservice by failing to communicate what our needs are. Sometimes the pressure we feel is a result of the expectations we project on ourselves and not what is really being expected from us. We must be honest and willing to discuss expectations with our boss and colleagues and have the courage to talk about it. How else will they know?
A boundary that I like to set is not working late and not sending emails past a certain time. If I happen to be in a groove and working late, I like to utilize the delay delivery option in Outlook and schedule emails for the following morning. Leaders should be mindful of not sending communications late in the evening unless it’s necessary. Sometimes working late is required and that’s okay for isolated instances but it shouldn’t be the norm
3. Create to-do lists
This one is a personal favorite of mine. Keeping a to-do list works wonders for my anxiety, freeing up mental space that would otherwise be consumed with all my notes. I like to write my list the night before, clearing my mind for bedtime. I then review it first thing in the morning and prioritize what needs to be tackled first. To-do lists help me to stay organized and ensures that I do not drop the ball by maintaining a balance between priority items and other items that can wait.
4. Schedule time-off
This one is extremely important. Even with all the time-off that most of us have, we still feel uneasy about taking leave from work. Sometimes it’s fear of missing out (FOMO) that kicks in or we feel bad for leaving our colleagues with the never-ending demand of work deliverables. I find that it helps if we change our perspective on why taking leave is important. Taking time off is a great way to recharge our battery. Just like anything else, we must also unplug to function better. Taking time away from work allows us to connect to people and things that we enjoy, improving our morale, spirit and creativity. Doing more of what makes us happy on a personal level is a key ingredient to maintaining a healthy and happy work-life balance. Most importantly, you earned that time-off – so enjoy it!
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us in some shape or form. Only we know the extent of the impact in our lives, which is why it is our individual responsibility to take care of ourselves first and foremost before we can take care of others. By identifying what our needs are, we are in a better position to establish boundaries to help us maintain a healthy balance. We must be our own advocate and maintain a two-way communication dialogue with the appropriate parties in our personal and work lives. We can’t expect others to support us in our journey if we’re unable to express what it is that we are seeking. Remember, people are not mind readers – tell them what you need.
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Ozlem is a senior management official currently working for the Director of the Office of Communications at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). She’s been employed at the IRS for 16 years, possessing a wide range of experience from the Collections, Engagement & Retention Office and the Strategy and Organizational Improvement Office to name a few.