Healthy Work-Life Balance in Difficult Times

How to survive and find the right balance in our new, remote reality

Finding a healthy work-life balance has never been an easy task. However, 2020 made it almost impossible. The borders between work and personal life became so blurred that we are no longer able to understand where one finishes and the other one starts. Furthermore, the pandemic created a strain on our mental health and demonstrated how fragile emotional stability is. We now need to figure out how to return to a balance in this new remote reality, concentrating more on our psychological state.

Firstly, we need to accept that the ideal work-life balance does not exist, nor do you need to try and reach it. It’s just important to understand which ratio works best for you.

1. Invent your own ‘switch’ ritual
Since many of us work in a home office, we need to draw a clear line between work and the rest of our life. Here rituals help. You do not necessarily need to put on your work outfit, exit from the house, go around the building and then return (even though it’s not a bad idea!) You can find your own ritual that switches you between 'work' and 'life' modes. You may burn an incense stick, dance, or do a headstand.

2. Digital detox on a regular basis
We all need digital breaks, especially after over a year of life in front of the monitor. Two to three days a month without electronic devices (or at least in airplane mode) is crucial for our mental health. Spend this time with family or friends, or even alone on a day trip. You will be surprised how it clears your mind and how productive you will be the following day, solving your work tasks.

3. Read, listen, and walk
According to research carried out by the University of Sussex, a stress level is reduced by 68% after just 6 minutes of reading a book. Reading is the absolute winner here: listening to music and taking a walk reduces stress levels by 61% and 42%. It will break the hearts of Kindle lovers, but paper books are better for our brain.

4. Never wait for holidays if you’re stressed out
If you see signs of an oncoming ‘burnout’, do not wait for holidays next month, have a break immediately! Take a day off on Friday and go on a little vacation. And please leave your laptop at home!

5. Be fully present in the moment
In 99% of cases, we think we do not have enough time for work. This is not because we actually don’t have it, but because we are distracted and are not completely present in the moment. We think about things like apartment renovations and how expensive it is going to be during job meetings in Zoom. We worry about a presentation we need to make the following week during a family dinner. But is it easier said than done? Of course! Start with reflecting and bring yourself back to the moment every time you notice you’re getting distracted.

6. Do not sacrifice a night’s sleep
Even though it is conventional wisdom, many people (especially the young), ignore it and pay the consequences. Under any circumstance, whether it is for your job, or watching another episode of your favourite TV series. Lack of sleep reduces your concentration, increases irritability and anxiety, and lowers the quality of life. Remember that chronicle lack of sleep leads to serious health problems, including psychological ones, such as depression.

7. Plan everything
We tend to think that only work activities need to be scheduled, but it is wrong! Plan a family weekend, meeting up with old friends, a morning jog, or a romantic date out with your partner - especially if you are in a long-term relationship and live together. Plan half an hour for social media and doing nothing, so you will not feel that life is just passing you by and you are missing something interesting.

In different periods, your work-life balance will shift back and forth and it is absolutely normal. Sometimes we must burn the candle at both ends to finish an important project in time in order to get a promotion, satisfaction or respect from our colleagues. Sometimes we can take one month break and go to a summer language school in Provence. Just remember, the main goal of finding a work-life balance is not only to avoid burnout, but to let yourself do the things you really love to do on a regular basis.

Written by, Lidia Samsonova-Zharkova