The impact of lockdown on work-life balance

4 May 2020
confinement
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is hard enough under normal circumstances, let along while in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. How is lockdown affecting the fine line between our work and personal lives, and what can we do to cope with the situation? Three employees share their experience of lockdown.

Does teleworking mean working harder?

Being on lockdown and teleworking at the same time is not about lounging around in your pajamas, far from it. 

“Because of this crisis, many people are having to work a lot harder, and not just healthcare workers,” explains Daniel, 38, a research assistant, whose working hours have increased since the lockdown began. “Employers think that we have less to do right now because we have less social events to go to, and because certain activities are grinding to a halt, etc. So, they expect us to do more.”

Others simply feel obliged to put more effort into their work than before, such as 35-year-old Eleonore, a freelance yoga teacher: “I’m worried that some companies might forget all about me. So I’m working harder than usual, to ensure that my business maintains a strong presence, and so that I can deliver my classes online. My students are doing more yoga now than when they had to come to class!”

This enforced move to transform or digitize business activities also creates additional work.

“I'm not used to working online, so everything takes a lot longer, it took time for me to understand what I was doing and find the right tools,” the young woman adds.

How to cope with the situation?

Tailor your workload to your own specific needs, while respecting and listening to others. “You need to move fast, be proactive and accessible if you don't want to be left behind,” says Eleonore.

However, if your excess workload is a result of a lack of understanding between yourself and your employer, then you need to set clear boundaries: while on lockdown, a healthy work-life balance is more essential than ever before.

What’s more, this could establish an unhealthy dynamic, setting a precedent that will be difficult to reverse later on. “I have a lot of concerns about the situation that we are currently creating,” says Daniel. “We have to be productive in spite of everything, and are doing more for less.”


Time management

In lockdown, your spouse may be teleworking at the same time, your children may need homeschooling, trips to the store to feed you family must be planned, and all these unprecedented factors accumulate, making it even more difficult to separate our work and social lives.

“I'm confined in the countryside with my son, who needs constant entertainment,” explains Eleonore. “I’m trying to divide my time between my work and my private life, but there is no cut-off point between the two, the lines are blurred and these areas of my life seem inseparable.”

“There is also this idea that you should be available at all times of the day,” notes Daniel. “I'm also expected to ask my colleagues to do more, because there is a belief that they have nothing else to do at the moment, when in fact, they too have children to look after, and so on.”

How to cope with the situation ?

Whenever possible, plan your days as if you were actually going to work. Schedule a specific time and allocate a space for each activity and/or individual.

According to Alice, a 33-year-old growth hacker who is in lockdown with her partner: “Having separate computers and desks is a big help for us!”

“It's easy for the boundaries to become blurred sometimes,” admits Daniel, however, “it’s really important to allocate a certain time and a physical space for each activity. Stick to working 8 hours a day and no more, and schedule breaks so that you can give you brain a rest.”




Managing your emotions

Being organized in times of lockdown can have an emotional impact. Whether in lockdown alone, with another person or with family, you may be experiencing anxiety or frustration. The situation and all these factors can have an effect on your morale and should be taken into account when working from home. “I’m finding it difficult to handle the fact that we are experiencing a global health crisis and yet we are expected to carry on working as if nothing has happened,” admits Daniel. “I’m also living with a partner who has lost their job and feels as if life in the world has slowed down, which creates a lot of friction between us.”

Alice is also having to cope with her partner’s different pace of life. “We are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum in the way we do things. My daily routine is much the same as if I was at work, while my partner is making the most of his time to have fun. Our routines are completely out of sync: I get up and go to bed much earlier than usual, while he goes to bed much later.”

How to cope with the situation ?

Talk to the person or people with whom you on lockdown and establish a structured routine that everyone is happy with. Respect each other’s space and pace of life as far as possible. And make an extra effort to be patient!

“After the first week which was pretty hard, we are beginning to settle into a rhythm at home,” notes Alice. “We made a deal at the beginning of lockdown, so we are really trying to be patient with each other and not start an argument. This helps us to communicate more effectively.”