The COVID-19 crisis made working from home a new normal. We started spending unprecedented amounts of time at home, and in the company of those with whom we live. How do we strike work-life balance in a time when the difference between work and life has blurred? Here is a look.
Spending more time together is bound to affect relationships. A BBC article from December 2020 said that during the first few months of quarantines divorce rates skyrocketed in the UK, China, and elsewhere. The Washington Post found that 34% of married people aged 18-55 reported a rise in marital stress as a result of spending more time together. Thankfully this was not universal. 58% felt that their union had grown stronger, not weaker.
International travel became much more restricted and bothersome. In the interest of health and safety city authorities limited access to public green space. Social distancing reduced options for outdoor sport and recreation. Many of us turned to indoor options like board games, cards, movies, TV, reading, and meditation. These are poor substitutes for regular outdoor physical activity. We must find ways to get some sun whenever we can. In any case the demand for vitamin D substitutes is sure to rise.
Initially the infrastructures of most schools were poorly equipped for the sudden shift to virtual learning. Teachers and students have had to adapt over a steep learning curve. Most countries have now implemented some hybrid version of education. Others are opting to partially reopen schools. However, not everyone agrees that this is the best way forward. It is hard to get parents, teachers, and governing bodies on the same page.
In January 2021 the BBC reported that parents were expressing concerns over the decision to reopen primary schools in some parts of England. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is convinced that schools are safe, and that the risk of children getting infected is low. Regardless, many parents are opting to keep their kids at home. Similar challenges are manifesting in other countries and at all levels of learning. Those who study overseas are in an even more precarious situation. The fate of millions of international students is uncertain.
Working from home independently and indefinitely seemed a dream come true at first. Now many professionals are finding it difficult to separate work and home. Finding balance amid quarantines and lockdowns seems difficult. In a recent National Education Union survey respondents cited exhaustion, overwork, increased workload, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Many felt abandoned by governing bodies.
A vital missing component seems to be discipline. Leeds University advises prioritizing mental and physical health by defining important tasks. We must plan, schedule, delegate, seek help, and know our limits. Institutionally imposed discipline served to keep most of us in line. Fixed working hours created rhythms and routines. All this may become a thing of the past. We must learn to regulate and discipline ourselves. Discipline in all things can help us strike a sustainable balance.
The domestic situation
Domestic health has been threatened throughout this pandemic. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the US has been getting increasing reports of domestic abuse and violence. Child abuse and child neglect in the US are also alarmingly high. Online forms of sexual harassment have increased as more people stay online at home. Sadly, things are not too different across the Atlantic. Since the first lockdowns the Council of Europe reported increasing call volumes received by domestic violence hotlines. The situation exacerbated when new restrictions were put into place in much of Europe. The NGOs dedicated to fighting domestic violence are often underfunded.
A range of experiences
For some the COVID-19 situation brought windfalls. It created new jobs and new avenues for earning incomes. Many were able to quit unhappy jobs to start doing the things they really wanted. Initially millions of migrant workers found themselves jobless and stranded. In subsequent months most could return to work. They resumed sending remittances via international money transfers, which are the lifelines of their families back home.
At the other extreme were the many grim realities of unemployment, food insecurity, homelessness, and death from disease. Several charities, NGOs, philanthropists, and activists worked hard to lend a helping hand to those in need. American celebrities like Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Seth Meyers are using their platforms to donate towards feeding, clothing, and housing the needy. We must ask ourselves how we can contribute.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.