Delineate ‘work’ from ‘life’: lessons from the Covid lockdown

dealienate – work from home

One of the salient experiences for those surveyed was that working-from-home highlighted how critical it was to maintain boundaries between work and ‘life. As the physical space collapsed into one, many observed that the ‘days seem to blend into each other and I feel I am working all the time’. The boundaries are so blurred for most people now that there is no “switch-off” time. By switch-off we don’t mean only sleep or vegging out in front of the TV. It refers to the principle of contrast where when we move from one distinct activity to another very different one, the experience is refreshing.

Working from home needs better planning with respect to your KRAs, managing online meetings, and sharing responsibilities at home. The initial challenge around balancing tasks was a seriously difficult one. – Rahul Kumar Sinha (Pidilite) 

These experiences have brought to the forefront the fact that separating roles for oneself is a huge contributor to work-life balance and corresponding well-being. This principle of contrast can be built into your day by:

1. Thinking about what energizes you and working those kinds of activities into your day. It could be solving a Sudoku puzzle or drawing or painting or even just some kinds of housework if that works for you

One needs to find time to do some physical activity such as yoga/ breathing exercises to keep fit. With self-motivation & discipline we find that we can put in long hours, even though we are not in a formal office environment. – Mani V (Glenmark Pharmaceuticals)

2. Building in small habits for renewal as you work – if you have been staring at a computer screen for an hour, go to your window and look at the blue sky for a few minutes or if you have a pile of housework, consider completing it in small bursts through the day instead of all at once

3. Segregating work time from personal time – when you do this initially, people may push back and demand your time as per their convenience or need, both on the work front and the family front. It is up to you to drawn the boundaries that will work. Recall the airplane safety instruction to travellers with young children; first put on your own mask and then help the child. This is not selfish. It is practical. Your capacity to serve others will be significantly enhanced when you are calm

4. Segregating work space from personal space – Within the confines of a home this can be challenging if there are many family members. But there may still be ways to negotiate this. All play and leisure activities happen in one room say and another room functions as a sort of open-office. If you have more rooms in the house, then this is even less of an issue. But it does require you to discuss and agree these rules with others that share your space

5. Delegating responsibilities at home and at work – Never has this been more important. Having a great second line at work that does not require constant oversight can be liberating. And at home as well clearly setting expectations as to shared responsibilities can really help a family come together, at least eventually. Naturally this cannot happen overnight. You will need to work with your team to build capability before you can delegate and you need to co-create your home management plan with family. But it is worth the investment

6. Rationalize your own expectations – for leaders used to having a team available all through the day to execute their directions, one of the most frustrating things is that the pace of work has slowed down. Each decision requires more coordination; team members may not be available for calls when you need them as they juggle their own priorities and add to that the problems of internet bandwidth and lack of access to common resources in office. This is really an opportunity to re-prioritize and let the little things go. Evaluate your situation and decide what is most important and focus your effort or you will be too thinly spread

For Maya John of Daily Hunt — work from home even on a regular day is not an attractive option. She shared how she came around to a point where she could remain productive.

“Work from home has never been a preferred choice. It was much more efficient, faster to be in office, get people gathered and do that huddle and move to resolution. And lo and behold, that choice was taken away. In 48 hours we went to 100 percent work from home…. I like to switch off work when I’m at home and I switch off home when I’m at work. And I’ve built my set up to help me do that. I have help at home and I have a good team at work. So it helps to manage those parallel worlds. I cling a little bit to the normal…get up at the same time and get ready, I have a dedicated space I sit at, which is now my office and all the scheduled meetings continue. It is a bit of re-creating what I know and am comfortable with and, learning along the way.”

We find that those leaders who have been doing these things are able to survive the crisis at much less personal cost. If you have not yet thought about these issues, this is a good time to reset priorities to help you manage your work-life boundaries.  It will be enabling not just through this phase but through life.