Making work/life work

Now that we’re a couple of months into this thing, you might’ve read articles on how to be productive and maintain work-life balance during the pandemic. This is another one of those — except this is coming from somebody who isn’t qualified to be giving advice. Actually, maybe that means it’s exactly like the other articles.

A few years back, the idea of work-life balance started being challenged by its newer, trendier sibling, “work-life integration”. The difference being, with work-life balance there was a clear distinction between the two things — whether you worked 9-5 or 9-9 you stopped doing one activity to start the other. With work-life integration, the idea is the two worlds are intermingled. You might be home for supper but do work after bedtime. There isn’t a clear seperation between the two.

As we enter week 3,207 of quarantine, I think it’s safe to say we’ve reached peak work-life integration. Dogs barking during meetings, kids barging in on video calls, and a general acceptance that this is all normal.

Whatever you call it, we’re all trying to figure out how to continue to be productive, contributing members of our teams while preserving our physical and mental well-being.

Now, you’ve already heard from the authority. But, if you don’t have 11 years to spend in solitude to reach Outram levels of WFH enlightenment, what can you do to make work/life work? Not sure why you’re asking me (I’m currently struggling to write this with a 2.5-year-old on my lap watching Super Wings on my second screen), but here goes:

Find space

Yes, finding a space where you live to physically work can help you be more productive. And a proper desk chair can go a long way (I assume).

But you also have to find the mental capacity to manage. And that’s often the more difficult task. Some days managing the burden of it all and finding the space to think about anything else can be difficulty. Other days impossible.

But finding that space (sometimes forcing yourself to think about other things) can also provide much-needed relief and distraction.

Find time

I don’t know what your situation is, so won’t tell you how to divide your time. You could be taking care of young children, embarking on a career as an amateur teacher, or offering support for a sick loved one.

Or maybe you’re having a really hard time dealing with this whole thing, and productivity isn’t at the top of your list. And it probably shouldn’t be.

Finding time is about carving out and dedicating yourself to a single thing. Whether that be work or exercise or doing whatever you need to do to ensure you take care of your mental health. It’s about recognizing you probably can’t do it all, and you definitely can’t do it all at the same time but can probably find moments here and there to care of what you need to.

Find purpose

I’m going to level with you, I just wanted to start each section with “find”. You could say it was my purpose in writing this.

But I think there’s something to it.

Having something (or many little things) that you can find meaning in can go a long way.

You might be able to do this in your work — with projects that you’ve wanted to work on but couldn’t dedicate time to previously.

Or you might be doing this in life. Some people have started growing vegetable gardens, some are re-evaluating priorities, and every single person on the planet has started baking bread.

In conclusion?

Really, I don’t think there’s any secret formula to making work/life work during these times. If there is, I haven’t found it. All we can do is try our best and practice a whole lot of self-compassion (watch out Brené Brown I’m coming for your job).

Now get back to work. Or life.

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