Have we been getting worklife balance wrong all along?

Covid-19 has changed the way society works. Sandra Da Silva-Creasey considers the long-term implications for our work-life balance.

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Sandra Da Silva-Creasey

A little over 10 weeks ago we were forced to press pause.  We were all in shock.  Suddenly having this extra time on our hands was completely unexpected and initially, unwelcome.  

But how many times in the last few decades have we all wished we could stay home, drop the commute and not have to do the school run? The frenzy of life pre-lockdown was relentless. 

Looking back just 50 years there was a much slower pace of life. But as technology advanced, demands on our time grew and we somehow lost the ability to savour the moment, enjoy the sunshine or even relish in the joy of parenthood. 

Every task was written on a never-ending list, trying to reach the next goal, acknowledge all the notifications, seek happiness and fulfilment with the next purchase and be the superhuman everyone expected us to be.   

Whilst running from A to B many of us craved better work life balance. 

Then POW! The pandemic hit and life as we knew it stopped.  We were forced to pause, take a breath and get off the treadmill.

Time to breathe and reflect

This pause in our lives was therapeutic too – it made us reminisce and feel nostalgic for the past we lived.

If you look ‘nostalgia’ up in the New Oxford Dictionary it tells you it is a ‘sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past’. But there is more to nostalgia than its definition. Nostalgia performs a powerful function:

Analysing the past and seeing how it has shaped us influences our future and what happens next. So many of us were too busy in ‘the now’ or focusing on the future to address the past. Covid-19 gave us the opportunity to ponder the past in our business and personal lives.

A new norm for businesses

Many companies, in their reflection, have decided that employees should continue working from home.  With tried and tested technology, they now have the confidence to make remote working permanent. The validity of face-to-face has been challenged, as socialising with colleagues can be done with regular fun on-line events, and one-to-one meetings can be held via video conference from the comfort of our own homes. Companies are also realising that the huge expense of leasing office space is no longer a necessity.

Some businesses have completely adjusted their systems and processes, adapting well to the new norm, even thriving in it.

Of course there has been a lot more screen time as a result, and in the earlier weeks we heard the phrase ‘Online Fatigue’ a lot. But a positive consequence for many is their decision to down laptops and computers in the evening and enjoy more quality time together, family walks and games.

A necessary culture shift

Parenting has also changed with becoming home educators. Many have seen the importance of teaching not only curriculum subjects, but also vital skills like cooking, cleaning and budgeting to their children – lifelong skills that normally they wouldn’t have the time for.

Home improvements and gardening work have taken on a new significance with being at home 24/7, and all of those small jobs that were put off for years have been ticked off in a matter of months. Because ‘decluttering is good for the soul’, as they say.

Slowly but surely, many of us have come to enjoy this slower pace of life; I know I have, even reaching out to old friends who I was always too busy before to connect with. Lockdown has allowed me to reclaim myself. Now I can really relish the smaller but highly significant things in life: friendships, family and doing what I really love. 

If you found one of those areas lacking before the pandemic, perhaps you finally have time to address it and make the most of now and the future?

We probably won’t ever go back to the old normal of driving everywhere, flying to see a client for a one-hour pitch (because ‘we have to be there’) and expecting hyper-convenience without acknowledging the impact on the planet.  Covid-19 will not last forever, but I believe the positive effects will: For our planet, for ourselves and for our families. Maybe we finally do have the balance just right?

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