One of the things that changes with a switch to working virtually is a loss of the external motivators that may have provided structure and boundaries throughout your day that were once in place when working in an office.
There is no longer a commute to work. It could be easy to not even go outside all day. You may be spending less time waking up to get dressed and ready, or preparing breakfast, and instead go straight to the computer to sign on. Your home office setup may not be nearly as conducive to work as your in-office setup. Communication style among the team inherently changes simply by the fact you don’t see each other in person anymore, affecting the office culture, your relationships there, and your own stress levels. E-mail communications increase. And the workday may have less of a clear end.
We’ve heard from individuals who live alone and find virtual work isolating. It might feel mind-numbing at times to be in the same room or apartment all day, especially if it is a space you don’t love.
We have also heard from those who are now working at home with their family, and how distracting that might be at times. It’s one thing to set boundaries and structure for yourself, and it is a whole other challenge to ask others to honor that. And of course, some people may be in a living situation that is not just uncomfortable, but unsafe, yet still have to be present and focused at work.
When working virtually, as the editors of Black Enterprise so clearly put it, “there’s no natural boundary between your workday and the rest of your life.”
In their article, 11 Tips for Creating Work/Life Balance in the Virtual Workplace, they offer empowering steps and perspectives to help you navigate the challenges of virtual work. Senior executive, national speaker and author Jackie Gaines notes, “You can take back control by getting very intentional about protecting your work/life balance in these unusual times.”
Some of our favorite insights from the article are:
Recognize your need for balance. And create it based on what uniquely works for you.
If you can recognize how the virtual workspace is not working for you, you’ve already taken an important first step! Listening to what you do not like could open the door for brainstorming what would work better for you.
We are all working under our own different situations, so be kind to yourself and realistic about what is possible. If the goal is to create some boundaries between your work life and personal life, start with goals you can control then move on to goals that may involve the participation of others.
Our Balancing Work & Cancer: Setting Boundaries webinar provides tip and tools to help you implement and maintain boundaries that could help at work and home.
Plan and organize.
Try planning important decisions in advance. If you are feeling fatigue from the side effects of treatment, for example, or from the daily stresses at work, you may be able to preserve some energy by automating certain decisions.
Find that you are too tired to even think about making lunch or dinner, and end up eating unhealthy or binge eating? Maybe there is a day before the work week where you can write down exactly what you will have, that will be easy to prepare and within your means, so you don’t even have to think about it when it comes time to eat. This can help eliminate stress, save energy, and make sure your personal time doesn’t also feel like work.
On Tuesday, October 6, our Virtual Program Ask the Experts with Oncology Nutritionist Katy Fung will answer your questions on planning healthy and affordable meals, and developing strategies for eating well at work and beyond.
Other things you might consider planning is when to go outside to get some fresh air, or even relaxing time with your family and what that will be. Continue to be mindful of being realistic. If you have an hour lunch break for example, spending just ten minutes outside could energize you, and still leave time for other things without the stress of having to rush back to work.
Exercise. Or try any light movement that brings you joy.
Exercise is not solely a task to stay fit. Whatever kind of movement works for your ability could get your blood and endorphins flowing and demarcate the space between work and personal life.
It could be a break time reward to do some light stretches, so you don’t feel stuck in the same position all day. Turn on some music and dance in your chair if that’s all you have time to do. But most importantly, take a moment to feel at home in your body, and move in whatever way brings you joy.
In our blog Your Physical and Mental Health During COVID-19, we share some links to virtual workouts, whether you want to try yoga, strength training, cardio, or movements from a chair or bed.
Balance is an ongoing process.
And lastly, remember that finding balance between work and personal life is an ongoing process. Don’t beat yourself up over the results, congratulate yourself just for going on the journey to find what works best for you.
“Make a date with yourself,” as Jackie Gaines puts it. “During your date time, do whatever it is that makes you happy – exercise, read, meditate, pray – whatever gives you just a small break for yourself. You will be surprised at the change you immediately start to feel in the quality of your life.”
Please be sure to read Black Enterprise’s full article, with additional tips and insights, by clicking here.