The headline of the Bloomberg article said it all, “Three Hours Longer, the Pandemic Workday Has Obliterated Work-Life Balance – People are overworked, stressed, and eager to get back to the office.” Within the article, authors Michelle Davis and Jeff Green state, “Six weeks into a nationwide work-from-home experiment with no end in sight, whatever boundaries remained between work and life have almost entirely disappeared.” and another headline, among the many I have seen over the weeks, reads, “CoronaVirus is obliterating work-life balance.”
There is no question that the global pandemic that has forced the majority of professionals to work from home while managing kids that are now schooling from home, alongside stay at home orders has caused mass disruption. Let us not be so quick to blame the lack of work-life balance on Covid-19.
The issue of work-life balance or a lack thereof is not something that was born out of this virus, in fact, it is something that in and of itself has been a global problem for a number of years and the global state of things has served mainly to expose its depths.
A 2019 “Stress at Work Report” by LinkedIn showed that 49 percent of professionals are stressed in their jobs. The number one reason for that stress as indicated by 70 percent of the respondents is a lack of work-life balance. Another study published last year by HRDrive showed that 60 percent of 18-34-year-olds stated they are stressed “over a poor work-life balance” that is hurting their work productivity.
If a global pandemic that has forced a global shutdown and put us in a close proximity is not forcing us to examine our inability to balance our personal lives and work, I am afraid of what will.
Not long ago, I was completely unbalanced, so much so that I decided to try and make an argument for it on LinkedIn. This is to date my most embarrassing post by a long shot. I was so intent on advancing my business and financial goals that I was in my own words “completely unbalanced” and “ok with it.”
Eventually, that lack of balance and my ego-driven approach to it caught up with me in ways I would have never imagined. With my marriage in shambles, kids who were angry as I had chosen my profession over my relationship with them, and my mental and emotional health running on empty, I crashed. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, I was separated from my wife of over 20 years, working from a makeshift office and the one and only thing I craved was redeeming that which was lost, relationship.
As I began the long road back to whole health, I was sharing my journey with a mentor who was serving as a coach when he said, “you finally got to a place where the pain of how you were living and the outcomes outweighed the pain and fear of change.” Truer words have never been spoken.
When I read these headlines about burnout, about the collective society turning to more work and reflect on my own journey; it does make me wonder when the pain of how we are living and the outcomes will outweigh the pain and fear of change?
We are at a pivotal moment in our history and how we choose to address our personal relationships and our relationship with work will, for many, have a lasting impact. We can choose to use this pandemic as an excuse for imbalance. We can justify absorbing more hours into our workday because our offices are now only footsteps away or we can establish boundaries that allow us to get more from our relationships. We can choose to use the time we would have spent during our commute to commune with our families and practice self-care. We can choose a different path.
What will it take? What will it take for us to make this change and begin getting the most from our personal and professional lives?
If you are waiting for the pain of how you are living to outweigh that of change, I can assure you that you have a long road ahead.