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Work Life Balance in this Hybrid World

Your Family Wellness Village

Though working remotely had been around before 2020, only 6% of the workforce actually worked from home. Then all of a sudden in May 2020, over ⅓ of the workforce started working from home. This spurred irrevocable shifts in the workspace as now most employers offer flexible hybrid or fully remote working opportunities. The expression work and life integration has been more prevalent and has taken precedence over work-life balance since for many, work and personal lives started to become more meshed together. 

Employers have picked up on the need for increased flexibility for their working from home employees and most have been more than willing to accommodate. Although not for free…

You need to drop off your kids at school at 9 am and pick them up at 3 pm? We have no problem with you flexing your time as long as you clock in all your hours for that day. 

You have a midday telehealth appointment? Not a problem as long as you make it up before or after work. 

Sure you can take your lunch whenever fits best your schedule! As long as you have some flexibility with us and can accommodate a 6 PM CST meeting with our Pacific Team. 

You need to bring your kids into work while school is closed? Of course, you can bring them in as long as you are getting the same amount of work done and they’re not disrupting anyone. 

Sound familiar?

With more flexibility coming from employers, increased flexibility became expected from employees, which seems fair. However, at times more is given back from employees than is necessary. There are pros and cons to both sides of this new arrangement. Some of the advantages of hybrid work are:

  • No commute. Suddenly, without having to spend large chunks of our day getting to and from the office, we have more time to do what we like and take care of ourselves and our families.

  • Flexibility. For many of us, we have more flexibility to choose the schedule that best fits our and our family’s needs.

  • Less use of PTO. With flexible scheduling, many of us have needed to take less time off for doctor and other personal appointments, especially with the advance of telemedicine.

  • Empowerment. Employees often get to choose where they work or when they work from home, which provides a sense of empowerment and more satisfaction with work. 

  • Health & Wellness. Studies show that working from home options helped improve diet, sleep, and physical activity for many.

However, along with the good, came the less good. Some of those drawbacks include:

  • Poor boundaries. There are now a lot more blurred lines between work and home life and around our work hours.

  • Answerability. While some companies trust their employees are working hard when working from home, many employees may feel the need to “prove” that they are working just as hard as they were in the office. This leads to working longer hours, logging in after hours, feeling the pressure to answer emails or IMs immediately.

  • Isolation. Because we aren’t in the office, we tend to experience more loneliness and lack engagement with our coworkers. 

  • Disconnection. Because there are less in-person interactions with coworkers and less water station small talk, some people have started losing trust in their coworkers or employees, which increases difficulty establishing a positive corporate culture.

  • Distraction. We can have increased distractions when we are working from home, which leads to lower productivity. 43% of remote workers report regular interruptions when working from home. 

Although there are many very happy and satisfied employees out there who have seen many improvements in their wellbeing and mental health since working from home, there are also often cases of poor outcomes coming from hybrid work schedules. Here are some examples of what our mental health clinicians are seeing right here in our office of the western suburbs of Illinois. These are common themes that our clients bring up, as opposed to exceptions:

Clients often find themselves trying to balance working remotely with personal distractions and getting burnt out due to having to split up their workday. Many people pause work in the early afternoon to pick up their kids and then get back to work again in the late afternoon or evening. Because workers left work in an unfinished state, this leads to many open mental tabs of unfinished tasks, leading to lack of presence in one’s personal life. Plus, it can be hard to get work going again in the evening hours, thus losing some of the momentum that was previously in motion. 

We are also seeing increased maternal mental load. The changes that the new hybrid workspace brings takes a heavier toll on moms who are often the default to pick up kids when they’re sick, pause work early to pick up kids at school/daycare, and overall continue taking on more child caring responsibilities while still juggling their work duties. 

This is also creating many challenges for new parents, who are opting to work from home and keep their babies and toddlers at home to save on the ever-increasing costs of childcare. This balancing act of working while caring for young children at home highly reduces work productivity and concentration as well as feelings of effectiveness and presence in parenting. 

Overall, this dynamic, when not appropriately managed, is causing less quality time spent with the family as well. When we are circling back to work in the evening due to mid day pauses or out of wanting to prove oneself to our virtual boss, we end up not spending time with our families in the evening after work like we previously have. Instead, we’re still working, catching up on tasks not completed. All of this leads to less time to spend together. 

With hybrid schedules and working remotely very much being the norm these days, how do we really make hybrid work WORK for us?

  • SET BOUNDARIES. This is especially true around scheduling. Set yourself a work schedule and stick to it. 

  • Delegate. Despite what we’d like to think, most of us can’t do it all. Get a sitter/mommy’s helper/family member to help with some of the smaller tasks in the day, such as drop off and pick up, small tasks around the house, etc. 

  • Give up the guilt. Even if we could do it all, let go of the idea that we have to. Let go of the guilt of not being the one to pick up your kids and not being overly flexible and accommodating with your employers. 

  • Prioritize family time. Set aside time that is specifically family time and protect that as sacred. Maybe that is family dinner, regular date nights with your partner, family game nights, or taking an after dinner walk. Set aside the screens and the work and just focus on being together. 

  • Lean on your support network. We work best in community and none of us can do it alone. Build and keep a strong social network to help counteract the isolation of working remotely. 

  • Set up a designated home office. If you are always seeing your work area, you’re always going to be thinking about it. Find a designated space in your home that is NOT in your bedroom and set up a comfortable ergonomic workstation for yourself that you can walk away from at the end of the day. 

For some of us, working in the office is really what suits us best, but for those of us who want or need to work remotely, there are many ways to make that work for us. Take some time to experiment around with these tips and create a work from home situation that works for you. If work-life balance is a struggle for you, perhaps you feel on the verge of a burnout, or you are getting resentful towards your employers, please reach out to our counselors by filling out a contact form. They get it and will guide you through improved wellbeing at home and at work.

  1. Remote work before, during, and after the pandemic. Quarterly Economic Briefing Q4 2020. By Patrick Coate. National Council on Compensation Insurance

  2.  Hybrid and healthy. IWG (The Global Workplace Leader)

  3. Remote and Hybrid Work Associated with Higher Rates of Anxiety and Depression, According to Integrated Benefits Institute Analysis, IBI (Integrated Benefits Institute).

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