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Balancing work and life in the COVID-19 era

Work-life balance is the separation of your professional and personal lives without allowing one to have a negative effect on the other.

If you’d been told in January that you’d be working from home for some months it might have sounded like a start-of-the-year bonus. The reality, of course, is not so enjoyable. 

With the advent of the coronavirus and the implementation of a lockdown, separating both work and life has been another job of its own.

You see your family around you, the kids running around, neighbours doing the most while your boss is probably giving you a list of tasks over the phone and your colleagues are on a meeting with you on zoom, which is of course amongst many other meeting platforms you are required to have.

Sometimes you find yourself scheduled for more meetings than you regularly had on a 9-5 working day. It’s just all seems overwhelming.

Getting a good work-life balance is quite hard when you’re working at home all the time, but as it looks, there might just be more weeks on lockdown. It is therefore vital to gain that balance in order to avoid wearing yourself out

From single people or those living with their parents to housemates, couples and families, refinding a balance will be a very personal experience but here are some factors that will aid a good start at getting that balance

1. Plan. It is imperative that you know how to manage yourself and time. How do you do this? PLAN!!! Don’t expect to slip into a slick new routine. Be organised and it will make your working week much easier. This is most important when you have a family. You want a plan to work and have time for family. And yes, you can do both. You can decide to plan using a schedule. There are many scheduling tools available. You can pick one and schedule your time.

2. Structure Your Day Like Normal. This is were scheduling really comes in play. Usually, you would wake up really early to get ready for work. Working from home should not change this routine. Act like you still have work to go to because, in reality, you do. It just happens to be in your home. Avoid tapping that snooze button. Wake up and continue with your normal daily routine. Structure your day. Pick working hours, play hours, lunch hours, and stick to them. Arrange your daily activities in an order of importance. With this, you could even end up with spare time. And with the time saved or left, you can spend with your family, friends or engage in physical activity.

3. Protect Your Mental Health. This is a delicate time. Aside from the pandemic, research shows that workers from home get stressed more than those who work form the office. Your emails can be misread, your power supply can go out; which of course could make your boss feel like you are intentionally avoiding work, family drama can pop up in the midst of work and everything can just look tangled up. It is important that you protect your mind from falling into depression. When you feel overwhelmed, you can shut your laptop, or whatever working tool you are using, take a walk (while maintaining a social distance of course), listen to music, watch a movie or any other thing that works for you. But whatever happens, ensure you give yourself time to breathe and relax.

4. Create Ground Rules To Avoid Distractions. Being that your workplace and living place are now together, anything at all can be a distraction. It can feel worse when you have kids. If you can, separate where you work from where you live. You can dedicate a room, shed or any extra space as a working space for you. But if however, you do not have this luxury, self isolate. Isolate yourself from anything that brings you distraction: your phone, the news, family members. Where possible, set boundaries with your colleagues so that they clearly know when they can – and perhaps cannot – expect an immediate reply. Likewise, use a sign on the door or block out your time in chunks and share with the rest of the household, so that they know when they can and can’t interrupt.

5. Give time for relaxation. With work and family being intertwined, it could feel like you have no time for yourself. For your own physical and mental wellbeing, it’s important that you make time for what’s important to you. Exercises, whether low or high intensity really helps to increase your energy level, combat depression and reboot you for more work. Depending on what you are comfortable with, relaxation could be a daily exercise routine or a couple of hours at the weekend.

6. Socialise. In a time like this, you really do not want to feel extra lonely. Man is naturally a social animal. A lockdown does not mean ”no socialising”. Thank God for social media. We now have a lot of platforms to socialise with people both far and near. We can chat, have video calls, connect with how others are coping and know that you are not alone. Face time with your family, play with your pets, have an online party, play an online game, do whatever that makes you feel less lonely. Nobody should take the threat of loneliness lightly during the pandemic because it can lead to poor mental and physical health in other areas. Maintaining a social life, albeit from a distance, will play a big role in striking a healthy work-life balance.

7. Embrace Change. A lot of things will feel different. You are probably used to leaving home early and coming back late, seeing different faces every day, having a defined workspace and environment. All that will change now. Change is inevitable. No matter how different it feels, embrace it rather than let it frustrate you. It’s important to remember that everyone is in the same boat, so you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself. It is an unprecedented time and the more you can go with the flow, the less overwhelmed you will feel.

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