Work-life Balance During the Pandemic

Column courtesy of El Paso Inc.

By Melanie Longhurst, Ph.D., M.Ed. / TTUHSC El Paso – June 7, 2020

Melanie Longhurst, Ph.D., M.Ed.

Melanie Longhurst, Ph.D., M.Ed.

When I received the email asking me to write a piece about “successfully balancing life while working from home during the pandemic,” I was at home on the phone with one of my trainees, looking down at a mess of toys on the floor as my two small children played. All the while, my to-do list for work and home was growing and growing.

My first thought was, “What do I know about ‘successful’ work-from-home balance?” Then I started thinking, “Is a ‘successful balance’ really possible?” I suppose that depends on how you conceptualize success and balance. I cannot speak to what that means to you, but I can talk from my personal experience and offer thoughts on how to manage life during this new era of remote working.

Establish a flexible structure: We can benefit from some predictability, especially now when so much is uncertain and out of our control. Implement some structure to your day, prioritize tasks and set boundaries with your work while recognizing things may not go as planned.

I have been keeping a to-do list with prioritized tasks. Sometimes those tasks seep into the following day if I can’t get it all done by the time I ceremoniously shut my laptop at the end of my workday. Once I shut my laptop, that’s it until the next day.

Get creative: Find alternative ways of doing things that fit you and your situation. Can’t exercise at the gym? Pull up a workout video online or take a walk. Can’t celebrate a major milestone with a house party? Consider a virtual one or arrange for a celebration on wheels with a parade.

Accept imperfection and embrace compassion: Allow yourself to let go of perfection. We have a lot more going on right now while managing both work and household duties simultaneously. It’s OK if your home is a mess, dishes are in the sink and projects are not perfect.

The same goes for children and those around you. Their school assignments or room upkeep may not be perfect, and that is also fine.

Let go of comparisons: What we see is not always as it seems. Just because someone is posting a picture of their gourmet meal on social media while you are eating a bowl of cereal does not mean you are failing.

Suffering is part of the human condition. Others may be struggling in areas that remain unseen, and we rarely know the depths of another person’s story. Practice compassion toward others and be compassionate with yourself.

Communicate: Finally, we need to not be afraid to open up to each other. We often expect other people to know our situation or to know that we need help even if we don’t communicate it. Then we are disappointed when we don’t receive the support we need. We can change that scenario by communicating our feelings, needs and thoughts.

For example, is your child’s schoolwork too much for you to manage or is there something you can’t understand? Talk to their teacher. Not going to meet a project deadline? Reach out to your supervisor. Let them know the situation so you can work together toward a solution. Communicate with your household members about how you can help one another. Reach out to friends, family, support groups or professionals if needed.

Good communication requires listening. Open lines of communication with others – including children – about how they are feeling and listen to them. One of the biggest gifts we can be given is to be heard.

Dr. Melanie Longhurst is a licensed psychologist and assistant professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.