Have you found a work/life balance?

Balancing work and life seems like an ever-shifting landscape. If you’re still finding your footing in our post-pandemic world this might help you reach solid ground again. And it begins with setting clear boundaries.

We were used to having very concrete boundaries between work and home. There was a specific time you had to be in the office and a regular schedule that provided a comfortable rhythm to your days. Your commute created physical and mental space between work and home. There was the park you often strolled at lunch or the coffee shop that was part of your morning routine. You may have shared pics of the kids with a colleague over lunch or told the latest anecdote before a meeting began but often home and work were different worlds.

The pandemic shifted that for many who found themselves working from home. Not only were our regular routines disrupted but the barrier between home and work was gone.

The insides of our homes, complete with spouses talking loudly on their Zoom calls and children quibbling, became visible to everyone. Our kids learned what it meant to have parents who were home but not always available to make their eleventh snack of the morning. The chaos of a house with many more occupants than usual sharing space was now on full display.

We found ourselves often working longer hours. The deadlines remained, the targets were unchanged and especially as the pandemic wore on (and on) it became “business as usual” except nothing about this was normal because the walls were down.

Suddenly it was a challenge to separate home and work. You might skip your usual walk during lunch in favor of a sandwich at your desk. It might have felt uncomfortable to log off at a reasonable hour without the social cues of teammates heading out and an emptying office that signaled the end of the day. We no longer had to pick up kids after school because they were already home. And many parents found themselves unexpectedly thrown into the role of “teacher” explaining algebra between meetings or trouble-shooting tech issues with an online learning portal.

In-person conferences that provided networking opportunities and a refreshing break from our regular routine became an online learning marathon. I recently had an opportunity to take part in a 3-day cohort training as part of a larger program. The content, facilitation, and people were incredibly engaging but I was exhausted at the end of each day. Our bodies and brains aren’t meant to sit still and focus all day long like this.

We’ve all heard that “sitting is the new smoking” and a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, depression, and muscle and joint pain. In fact, our metabolism slows down 90% after just 30 minutes of sitting!

Creating better boundaries might just be an opportunity to create better physical and mental health. The American Psychiatric Association defines a boundary as something that “protects the integrity of an individual or group or that helps the person or group set realistic limits on participation in a relationship or activity.” So how can you set some limits around working from home?

Let’s brainstorm some work-from-home boundaries…

You could create a morning commute by starting your day with a walk around the block before you “clock in” and end your day in the same way.

You could do a modified “walking meeting” by having your meeting on the phone so you can talk and pace your workspace.

You could use email instead of yet another meeting.

Or reduce the length of your meeting to 50 minutes giving you the time you used to have walking between meetings to get a breath of fresh air, make a healthy snack, do a few asanas to stretch your muscles, or even meditate.

You could give yourself a lunch hour.

You could decide which hours you’re available and communicate them clearly to others. I have a vendor I work with who has her business hours in her email signature (8 – 4 Mon – Thurs). She’s got an out-of-office autoresponder that’s warm and welcoming and she always gets back to you when she says she will. I imagine she takes those days to focus on building her business or spending time out of the office. I admire this so much. And clearly communicating her boundaries makes it easier to work with her.

There are so many studies that suggest a 4-day work week reduces overhead, increases productivity, increase employee satisfaction, improve work/life balance, and benefit employees who have small children or aging parents to care for or those who struggle with chronic illness themselves. If it’s within your power to negotiate a 4-day work week…it might be worth considering.

Clear boundaries around our work and life whether we’re in an office or working from home allow us to feel rested, refreshed and eager to contribute. And it gives space for us to be fully present in our personal lives with the people we love and the things that bring us joy. After all, life is about so much more than just work.

If you’d love the support of a group to help you shift your habits and create better boundaries around work and home, to support you and hold you accountable (so you won’t slip back into old routines) we’d love for you to join us. Learn more here.

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