The pandemic crisis has highlighted how precarious the work-life balance juggle is for so many of us. Mothers, in particular, face the triple whammy of trying to continue with paid work while looking after children and no longer able to rely on grandparents to pick up the slack. In these circumstances is any semblance of work-life balance possible?
My short answer is yes. A few simple shifts in your thinking and your working practices will enable better balance. It won’t be perfect – but then it never was. You will, however, notice an improvement.
In this week’s blog I’m focusing on two foundational strategies that will help #Rebalance the chaos.
- Redesign your job
Now, more than ever, it’s essential that you’re clear on the outputs expected of you and the timescales in which you must deliver these. For too long the focus, regardless of where the work was done, has been on the number of hours devoted to it rather than on the outputs produced. Time has suddenly become a scarce commodity and we need to be more mindful of how we use it.
It’s the perfect time to have that conversation with your manager. Your focus should be on how you can make the best use of those valuable skills for which you were hired. And how you can reduce the low value activities (such as endless meetings and emails) that get in the way of your productivity by eating away at your time. It’s also the moment to accept that your work routine and your availability for work are both going to deviate from the standard 9:00 to 18:00 in the office. So long as you meet agreed deadlines, when you choose to work should be irrelevant.
- Keep ‘multi-tasking’ to a minimum
Researchers categorise work-life balance strategies along a continuum from Separation at one end to Integration at the other. Since the turn of the century technology had been pushing more and more of us to be Integrators – leading to an #AlwaysOn working culture and the risk of burnout.
Integrators appear to be more comfortable blending their work and non-work activities; and in the current circumstances many people have little option to do otherwise. However, integration, also often referred to as multi-tasking – has its limitations.
Indeed multi-tasking has been shown to be a myth. What we’re actually doing is switching between tasks and the mental effort of doing so makes us less productive. Trying to multi-task work with caring for a young child can be almost impossible. If you’re in that position and living in a two parent household it’s better to agree boundaried periods when each of you can work while sharing childcare and household tasks. Lone parents face a much bigger challenge; and may need to lower their work-based expectations in the short term.
In the second part of this blog next week I’ll be looking at how to avoid role confusion; and how to use positive psychology to get what you need.
The internet is currently full of coaches and motivational speakers encouraging us to make use of these unusual circumstances to learn new skills and develop new habits. For many of us that can seem like adding more to the current chaos of our lives. Following my suggestions, on the other hand, will lead you (almost) effortlessly to new skills and habits that will serve you in good stead when the current crisis is over.