Covid-19 and the Work-Life Balance Restart

How being forced to stay home has impacted workers’ outlooks on what work-life balance really means.

Wake up. Make coffee. Drive to the train. Commute for 1 hour. More coffee. Work 4 hours. Lunch at your desk. Work 4 more hours. Commute for 1 hour. Takeout for dinner. Watch some Netflix and go to bed. Repeat 4x for an average workweek. Living the dream, right?

Commuting to work

While some people believe that 60-80 hour weeks are “the only way to get ahead at your career” others place more of a priority around the somewhat delicate “work-life balance”. Did it even exist for most people before Covid-19? Are people working more than ever because there’s now no separation from the office and the home?

While feelings may be divided around the fine line many of us walk between our work and home lives, Covid-19 has awakened many workers who are new to flexible schedules and are eager to learn more.

In this article, we’ll examine four ways Covid-19 has impacted the work-life balance and what that means for the future of work.

  1. Productivity
  2. Life > Work
  3. Delegation
  4. Communication

Without further ado, let’s jump right in and learn how these four facets have changed since many workers have transitioned to working from home.

1. Productivity

While many of us have struggled with productivity after the massive shift to working from home as of March 2020, we’ve had enough time to adapt and determine what works best when it comes to remote working.  

We’ve learned that many remote workers are quite satisfied with current work arrangements, as much as 86% of them and 47% are “very satisfied” with their arrangements! There have obviously been some nightmares in terms of bosses wanting workers to use their commute times online but for the most part,  arrangements have been productive after the past seven months.

Some could argue that the idea of productivity has been broken for some time, and is even geographical. For example, in Canada, workers in Toronto seem obsessed with productivity and “hustle” but their west-coast counterparts in Vancouver seem to know how to take a day off and disconnect. It must be that fresh mountain air.

Pre-covid, many of us pictured work as 9-5 (even if we were really pulling 8-6 hours). This way, it’s no wonder so many of us live for the weekends. Pre-covid it was a bragging right to boast how “busy” you were and how much you had on your plate. If you were free, it meant you were available to do something else with your day and many people were over-committed and wound up burnt out.

Burnout has become a real medical term and pre-covid there were no signs of this slowing down. The Covid-19 lockdown forced many strapped workers to take a step back and examine their relationship with the “life” in work-life balance.

2. Life > Work

This brings us to our next point, emphasizing the “life” in the work-life. Is using the two extra commute hours really that productive for your business? Unless you’re a self-made entrepreneur (in which case, you probably weren’t commuting anyways), the answer is no.

Contributing to someone else’s bottom line simply because “you have more time” was probably not part of your job description, and you’re probably not getting paid more for it.

By being forced to stay home, the first few months were probably exhausting between trying to entertain a family (if you have one) and maintaining regular working hours. Once the world settled into a good groove, though, finding time to relax and take breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout has never seemed better for many of us.

Home Worker do everything at once

In fact, we’re probably taking just the proper amount of time “off” throughout the day as we would if regular breaks were included in office life. Maybe now you don’t have to eat lunch at your desk and can enjoy some time outside of “the office” during the day!

Logging off has also become a priority for many. Just because you’re at home with a computer doesn’t mean you need to check your email. Figuring this out and fighting the urge to reach the elusive “inbox zero” buzzword takes time and self-restraint.

3. Delegation

Newly distributed teams have had to figure out ways to delegate tasks across their workforce. Covid-19 has shown many a manager that productivity is not equal to “time spent at work”. In fact, if you’re meeting all your requirements in 6 hours instead of 8, why are you messing around with “busy work” at all? In those two hours, you could catch up on chores, get some exercise, hang out with your family, cook a great meal… the options are truly endless. So many of us are just not used to having such time available or feel guilty for not working for 8 hours straight that we cannot enjoy the luxury of this extra time.

Delegating tasks properly should free up employees while working to minimize burnout, keeping your workers satisfied with their jobs.

People are realizing that video calls (aka, meetings) are not always productive or necessary. Many of them could have been emails and even more of them could have been a simple delegation from a manager to a team member.  

By enforcing this habit of delegation and trusting your workers to get it done, you have suddenly freed up seemingly endless amounts of time that you won’t want to go back to the way it was before.

4. Communication

Along with increased delegation, decreased meetings, and more trust amongst workers that build a business unit, communication has become paramount to the success of remote teams.

A good dose of communication and those ever-evolving conversations surrounding productivity can only positively impact the future of remote work at your company.

Once you’ve mastered communication with your remote workers, as long as they are meeting their deadlines and getting the work done, managers will soon realize the rest really doesn’t matter. In a world post-Covid-19 lockdown, commuting for the sake of being a body in a chair can seem so frivolous.

Workers who have seen the benefits won’t want to return to this way of living and will lobby against changes that affect their new lifestyle. And businesses that don’t embrace this new way of working will lose talented employees to companies that do.