Strike a stability

Abha Chaudhary

Before March, we were busy with business.Many of us would take a train, drive a car, or even fly to get to work, using that time to prepare for the day, relax or entertain ourselves. I always thought my drive to work was ‘the calm before the storm’. It was a time to reflect and prepare mentally for the day ahead. Now we are sometimes just busy.Our work-lives are no longer nine-to-five, leading to more unpredictable schedules. An’always-online’ culture has seeped into our personal space, creating a sense of isolation amidst the technological noise.Managing the new culture of work from home has kept us off the social radar.Imight politely say that I have experienced a strange disconnect even with myself.

Since this global sea-change, the time we spent commuting has been reallocated to more time working, which has resulted in higher levels of productivity at the cost of our mental health.Being remote has increasingly blurred our personal and professional lives. All of this additional working time has led to stress, anxiety, and depression that directly impacts our home life. It feels almost inescapable because only a door separates our work from our personal lives, and that door is often opened by spouses, children, and only breaks to eat and sleep. As a result of our work-life blend, we are more sleep-deprived, have poor physical health, lower levels of happiness; our family lives suffer and we feel isolated from our friends. While technology has made remote working possible, we are now always available regardless of what room we’re in at home. And, when we’re always on, we’re never present with ourselves, our family and friends.

Paradigm shift

While the situation may not magically change very soon,we can start managing our work-life in a better way so that we can orchestrate harmony instead of imbalance. This needs a paradigm shift. Let’s admit it, we live to workin order to maximize success, but not at the cost of one’s family life and health; we need to be more thoughtful about how, when, and where we work and live- about how we construct our calendar, ensuring that we have enough breaks and time for personal activities and people.

For instance, instead of packing in extra meetings in that mandated one-hour journey to work, add in time for a sociallydistanced walk with a friend or breakfast with your spouse. I have recently started to blockoff an hour to read a book or listen to a podcast(just as I did in the pre-Corona era) andit’s been therapeutic!Instead of isolating yourself in your home office, eat at the dining table with the family. Put 30-minute breaks into your calendar at least three or four times a day and force yourself to disconnect.

Routine is important

Keep all your gadgets in your home office and out of the kitchen or bedroom. Just like you set boundaries with technology, you should set them with your colleagues so you aren’t always on-call. Have a set time every day when the team knows you’re done working so they don’t keep emailing and texting you. Try to stick to a routine that makes you feel healthier and happier. And, most importantly, have work-life conversations with the people you work with because the behaviour of others can either help or harm your work-life.

When you are suffering from stress, it’s hard to focus. Starting today, let’s put more emphasis on ‘etiquette’ of managing ourselves, after all it’s just a code of conduct that allows us to live and work together with relative ease, foster good relationships, and reduce the social frictions.

—Chaudhary is a Chandigarh-based image and style consultant

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