I’ve been working remotely from my team for the last 7+ years. When this pandemic (and all that came after) began, my team approached me and graciously asked for my perspective for bringing a sense of “normalcy” to remote working so they could make sure they achieved a good work-life balance.
“You know better than anyone how to navigate this working from home reality, Beth. You do this every day, what can you share? What is a normal day like for you?”
While it makes sense that I would have a relevant perspective on the matter, in my head I was thinking, “Really? Normal? NONE of this feels normal.”
It’s not just where we work that has changed. Everything that influences how we show up to work is changing too. We are working remotely during a pandemic while homeschooling our children while fighting for equality while protesting our civil rights while determining the fate of our country, and trying not to lose ourselves or fall apart in the process.
These times are unprecedented. We are all dealing with far more change than we ever imagined we could, and we are learning as we go.
You’ll see lots of advice out there for how to most effectively work remotely. And while the authors all give really great pointers and tips, it just feels like more change to throw on top of everything else that is already changing. It’s exhausting.
3 Tips to Improve Your Work-Life Balance While Remote Working
So for the sake of us all, and our sanity, I am not going to harp on what you need to do differently (you have enough to think about).
Instead, I want to remind you of the tools you already have. What behaviors can you pull off the shelf and dust off, not just to survive this current reality, but to intentionally show up in a way that enriches your connection with others?
1. Have more and better conversations
I often joke that if quarantine came in a package, it would need a warning label that says (in bold) “conversations sold separately”. We can’t coast and expect great things. And yet, working remotely is a perfect excuse for shelving real conversation.
While technology is a great way to make contact with others, more contact is hardly a substitute for the conversations that want and need to take place. And conversation comes best for most of us when we limit distractions. (Not easy in a time when lights, buzzes, dings, and rings rule our lives.)
It takes hard work and what feels like a deeper and more focused dialogue than ever to keep our relationships with team members, clients, vendors, afloat these days.
So turn ON your video camera when speaking with others, close down your email inbox, mute your instant messenger, and increase the quality of the time you are spending with each other.
Talking WITH someone and not at them or through them, can be the difference between simply functioning remotely and actually growing, building, enriching ourselves, our teams, and our work while physically apart from each other.
2. Practice empathy
Even if we manage to turn down the volume on all of the distractions, we still need to ensure that our conversations are connecting us at the human level.
Practicing empathy doesn’t mean you have to set aside your own emotions or feelings, but it does mean you need to make space for the other person to have their emotions too, even if those emotions are different from your own.
It can be as simple as asking “How are you feeling?” and allowing silence to do the heavy lifting. Or “How can I support you right now?”
Sometimes, the most powerful things we can contribute to a conversation are silence and compassion and giving the other person the physical space and time to voice what is going on for them. And really listening.
3. Have a conversation with yourself every day
If you must, put it on your calendar, and literally invite yourself to that meeting! Find some quiet time for you to think, reflect, take care of yourself.
Recognize the vast amount of change that your head and heart are sorting through right now and treat yourself gently.
Lao Tzu once said, “Silence is a source of great strength.” Don’t believe it? Science actually backs this up. Silence has been shown to improve our health by lowering our blood pressure, boosting our immune system, and even growing new brain cells!
The only way you will be of service to your team, your family, your customers is to be as whole as you can be. So ask yourself, how am I supporting me?
That may seem impossible these days and yet, the conversation really does start with you. How are you prioritizing your health and well-being?
A friend of mine has permanently taken over her guest room closet for 1 hour each day. She threw a bean bag chair in there, a lava lamp (I kid you not), and posts a sign for her family that states “unless someone is in need of immediate medical attention, this space is off-limits to EVERYone but Mom…see you in an hour.”
If an hour is too much, start with 10 minutes…work your way up. The important thing is physically carving out time to be with your own thoughts for a dedicated amount of time each and every day.
There is a tremendous amount of change happening to us and around us these days. The one constant is our ability to have and to invite more quality conversations.
As Robert Frost said, “The best way out is through.” So ask yourself, how can I navigate this new normal through conversation? Deepening the connection with myself and others along the way.