Are you wondering how to move on from your life feeling like such a blur? Perhaps it feels like those clear lines you once had between being an employee, parent, partner and any other roles you had have drowned in one of the all-consuming waves that has swept through our lives since the pandemic hit.
But those roles, hats or identities still apply. We still want to be a parent to our children, a source of support to those we care for and a productive employee to our employers. At the same time whilst being a loving partner, a compassionate friend and a strong role model. Not just to them, but for us. We don’t need the reminders to know that self-care is important, but when we are being everything at once there is not always the time in the diary to reflect on it all.
Does this sound familiar? You’re not alone if it does. It’s a picture I’ve heard painted countless times recently and a sign of our times. Prior to the year of lockdowns, restrictions and social-distancing, we were able to separate our roles. The commute to and from work, for example, allowed us the opportunity to switch in and out of work mode. Now we know what it’s like to parent and work (and educate!) in the same moment. So do our children. They have seen us in ‘work mode’ too and that has impacted the percentage of ‘parent’ they get from us (“quiet please, mummy/daddy is in a meeting”, anyone?!). We worked, lived and played in the same places. We have had enough of work-life integration. Now, more than ever, we want work-life balance.
What people have achieved this past year is incredible. Here are some of my thoughts on how we might benefit from the experience as we plan our way forward with a little less blur and a lot more balance:
- Employee choice in workplace location: From my experience working in HR pre-COVID-19, there were far too many conversations convincing leaders that working from home was a viable solution. Now we all know it is possible, it is time to empower employees with the freedom to choose whether they work from home or in an employer-provided workplace – where of course, this is possible in their line of work. Quite simply, it’s time to both trust and respect employees.
- Separation of Home-Workplaces: Working at the dining table does not allow for work-life balance. Most people do not have a space at home where they can ‘separate’ work and life, but there are various options. I would like to see Government support to enable this. Over the pandemic, we built a cabin in our garden. The psychological impact of ‘commuting’ down the garden has been hugely significant when addressing our own work-life integration challenges. It would be great to spread awareness of the impact these changes can have.
- Focus on Wellbeing (everywhere!): Rather than worrying about how far ‘behind’ children are on the school curriculum, or how quickly staff return to productivity after furlough, let’s make sure people everywhere can recognise, manage and talk about what’s going on for them. As we recover over the next few years, I’d rather be part of a nation of happy families and friends than I would be a super high-powered economy. The former is a much better investment into our future.
- Acceptance: if you are a follower of my blog (thank you!), you may have noticed this theme before. It’s such a fundamental principle, but surely it is more relevant now than ever. We have all had time to learn and grow during the pandemic, even if we may not have had the time to reflect on it just yet. There will be things you want to return to, things to keep and things about your life that you want to change. We have a better idea about what is important to us. Accept that; accept who you are. I would love to see everyone be more comfortable in their own skin and hope that, in turn, this would encourage acceptance of others. Inclusion has been a constant conversation over the past year, but it starts with the self.
How is this all relevant to unblurring the lines and balancing our roles? If you accept who you are and what you want out of life, you are more likely going to make it happen. A focus on wellbeing removes a barrier. Then the physical impact of separating the places you attach roles to enables you to flow more easily between them.
The roles I’ve discussed might not apply to you. If the need to unblur does, the principle is the same: find ways to give to each of your roles. Be the artist, be the footballer, be the writer, be the driver. But don’t feel you have to be all of these at once. Happy unblurring…