Healthy work-life balance declined as remote work began during quarantine. But as offices reopen, the digital transformation of work continues to force new adjustments to our work-life balance.
The start of work from home arrangements challenged our ideas on how to separate work when our beds were just steps away from our desks. While remote work did offer flexible work days, creating a personal work structure became a challenge to balance. However, offices are now considering a return to offices for their employees and we once again have to rediscover how to cope with the new changes.
A Return to Work
There is unfamiliarity with working onsite, post-pandemic. While most brand it as a return to “normal working conditions”, the atmosphere is different. Our relationship with working in the office has changed after two years of online meetings and a lot of emails. Returning to onsite work full-time means removing that feeling of being disconnected from your team and getting that energy from socialization. However, some opt for a hybrid work setup in order to minimize risk while still collaborating effectively.
Hybrid setups are a mixture of remote and onsite work. Some days you work at home, some days you work at the office. There are several reasons why companies are opting or adapting to a hybrid work setup. Some continue to recuperate after the pandemic crisis and can no longer cover the upkeep of office spaces. While others are looking to reduce exposure from COVID cases. Of course, not all work models are the same. It is important to ask your team what arrangement works best for them.
Still, everything is relatively new and unexplored. We spent roughly two years adjusting to remote work. There have been several principles and workplace boundaries we discovered along the way. These discoveries can still aid you in rediscovering your new work-life balance whether you’re onsite or working remotely. Hopefully, it makes returning to the office less overwhelming.
The First Side of the Balance: Life
Relying on career achievements is a destructive force. Millions of office-based workers feel a sense of guilt when they are not working. This was evident during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Work not only fueled the need for productivity during quarantine boredom, but also became our source of social interaction. This reliance not only ruins output consistency, but also creates a fragile sense of self-worth.
Having a life outside of work first begs the question: what is your role outside of the office? We often define ourselves by our job description when it should just be one aspect of our lives. It is important to take interests that serve us no purpose other than personal enjoyment. In other words, hobbies are great. Even better when these are a stark difference from your job. If you are clueless where to start, it begins with self-evaluation. When working onsite, observe what you do when you are home. If you work remotely, observe how long it takes before you rest. A quick self-evaluation can serve as a proper reminder of what you need to do for a healthy work-life balance.
Remember, it is important to avoid both long hours and obsessing over work after office hours. For those returning to the office full time, there will be a period of adjustment where you are paralyzed from doing work outside of home. Do your best to be productive during office hours to stop yourself from doing your work after hours at home. During work days, you should have automatic reminders when to get up and take advantage of mandatory 15 minute breaks. You may stretch, take a short walk, or say “hello” to your neighbor/coworker. Simply do whatever you can to not remain stationary for long periods of time.
Checking emails or looking at anything in front of your computer screen, is not a break. Diverting your attention from work-related devices is key. Additionally, we’ve isolated ourselves for two years, which means our social batteries might run out faster than it usually does. There’s no shame in going outside and taking a breather or having a moment of peace in your personal quiet space every now and then.
The Other Side of the Balance: Work
People often forget the “balance” part of work-life balance. If working too much is one side, the other is the lack of productivity. We cannot stress enough how proper workplace well-being is a good thing. But, waking up in the morning to a purposeful day merits its own paragraph. Lack of work may result in one of four ways:
- Shock. You may become confused with the situation as if you are paralyzed with fear to achieve anything.
- Optimism, which is one of the few positive outcomes of lack of work. This is where the excitement of new work and productivity exists
- Pessimism or a negative mental attitude.
- And lastly, fatalism. This is where you believe that you are doomed to never achieve anything else. You begin to mentally and emotionally resign yourself.
Fiscal responsibilities aside, work is a fundamental pillar in social and personal identity. It gave us a sense of belonging during quarantine isolation. A return to office-based work is a return to daily goals and tasks in an engagingly productive physical environment. It may be difficult to adjust from idle days in quarantine, but there is nothing like the sense of fulfillment that comes from a productive day.
Cultivating Harmonious Collaboration
This one is more for your coworkers than for you. We strived to be empathetic during the pandemic and remote work. Minor imperfections were looked over, and whatever was needed to be rectified was done so with patience. We had an unspoken understanding that everyone was trying their best amidst an unfortunate situation. This needs to continue during the transition toward a hybrid setup. You and your coworkers must have an understanding that you are mutually giving it your all. Any imperfection can be dealt with, miscommunications are just that and nothing more, and everyone needs to take breaks.
Another aspect of work that was reevaluated during the pandemic was effectiveness of communication. Without a physical office, managers could no longer tap their team on the shoulder for a quick and impromptu meeting. Simple communication became a challenge. A virtual workplace does not guarantee that your employee will be able to attend the meeting when necessary, and internet connectivity is often unpredictable. It became necessary to communicate effectively with brevity. Listening well to employees is also important as miscommunication ruins the flow of virtual meetings. As we return to offices, we should continue to make good use and be mindful of our team’s time onsite. It would be useful to still utilize online messaging software for brief questions or reminders rather than scheduling a full meeting.
It Takes Time to Adjust
Always remember that hybrid setups and post-pandemic onsite work means that we should bring in the old with the new. What we took from remote work should combine with what we already know from onsite work. This is the new office. Where we collaborate with empathy. Where we communicate effectively. And where we benefit from an office environment while encouraging our team to take care of themselves well.
Hybrid work arrangements provide a flexible and safe work environment that prevents further exposure or illness. While working onsite post-pandemic sees new measures and anxieties. Both are new and unfamiliar. It’s important to understand that everyone, even your superiors, are in a phase of adjustment after a long period of remote work. It will require a lot of trial and error, but we’ll get there like we always do.