I hosted a panel on work/life balance some years ago at a global business conference of more than 1000 participants in Shanghai. It was on the occasion of the inaugural of the Global Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society.
Although the session rated number one in the conference popularity analytics – both before and after the event – the takeaway was basically that ‘work’ and ‘life’ are separate issues and that a balance is probably impossible to achieve.
Fast-forward to today where that work/life experiment is at full throttle.
And under the spotlight.
Millions of people are currently compelled to work from home, due to domestic, economic or political constraints.
And because of what we now all know is the big issue of COVID-19.
Bottom line: The whole concept of work/life balance is now upended.
In the work/life balance scenario of yesterday, we wanted to spend less time at work and more at home because we thought that this would provide us with more ‘balance’ in our lives.
‘Be careful what you wish for’ is a warning we’ve often heard and while many of us have long wished for a better work/life balance, we didn’t have in mind the situation we’re in now – compulsory working from home.
Today, as schools are closed across many countries and both parents are at home with the kids at the same time, ‘home’ is a pretty crowded space for the average family.
Many people just don’t have the personal space, or the peace and quiet to get ‘work’ done.
And this creates a strange, unbalanced situation.
Roles and routines are upended as schedules are axed.
Nerves are frayed. Tempers are short.
And don’t even think about striking a ‘balance’.
It’s all getting to be a bit too much.
Precautionary working from home in shifts with colleagues is one thing, but mandatory quarantine, where you absolutely must stay home for a longer period – and remain indoors – or risk a fine, or even worse, creates an even more stressful situation.
What can you do to avoid the potential of this level of stress overwhelming you?
Well, one scenario is to use the time when you cannot go outside to go within – to find a process that appeals to you to develop your self-awareness and use this insight to manage your stress. This will hopefully help you to calm down, accept the inconvenience of the current situation and maybe even set you up to streamline your days to prepare for a brand-new chapter in your life when COVID-19 is less of a menace.
What’s going on?
Is that you I hear laughing out loud at the very idea of ‘going within’ when ‘going bonkers’, which translates as ‘going mad’ – as one of my clients describes it – is more of an option?
Okay, I get it.
There’s little chance that you’re going to be able to attain a state of mindfulness and begin a meditation session when you’re trying to prepare your next presentation for that important Zoom call while you’re sandwiched between an attention-seeking toddler and a humming washing machine.
Very little chance indeed.
It’s equally unlikely that you’re going to create a masterpiece of collaborative engineering when you are working alone.
And desperately lonely.
You can hardly wait for things to get back to ‘normal’ – if they ever will.
Navigating uncharted territory demands taking charge of your life.
And self-awareness is your compass for the trip.
It will help you calm down, get organized, see things more clearly and make a flexible plan.
Developing self-awareness is the alternative to ‘going bonkers.’
The ‘new normal’ is uncomfortable – scary even – but it may have a silver lining if it means that our priorities change from focusing on that big promotion, that fat salary raise, that well-heeled lifestyle to focusing more on collaboration, purpose and finding joy in simple everyday things. Our overall health and well-being will benefit enormously from this.
As the world changes – and we change along with it – we may well end up in a place where there’s more value in being well-healed than in being well-heeled.
And those Zoom call presentations will rock!