By Mark P. Janci, CFP®, CPWA®, AIF®, Regional Director
As we eagerly await the fuller reopening of our lives, I believe it would be worthwhile to take stock of the accommodations we have all made to survive and thrive during this pandemic. While our front-line heroes – from health care providers to grocery store stockers – never stopped working on site, most of us embraced remote work. We shifted to Zoom and Teams. We were with our families full time. We stayed home and stayed safe.
Many working people found a way to reinforce their value to their company, their clients, and their customers. However, all of these changes required us to lower the healthy boundaries we had created between work and home. For many this was a radical shift, with work reshaping our home lives.
Blurred Boundaries Have Become the Norm
Prior to COVID 19, answering a business phone call or text while entertaining dinner guests in your home would have required an apology. Now the lines between work-life and home-life are VERY blurred at best. Dining room tables are now work stations, bedrooms are staged for Zoom meetings.
This issue of blurred boundary lines is especially true for families with young children. When my children were young, I would focus my time commuting home to clear my mind of the demands of my workday, which enabled me to be very present with them. Work was what I did ‘away-from-home.’ When I entered our house – I was Dad, I was home.
My kids are grown now, but in navigating the past 18 months, these boundary lines have been redrawn for all of us. We all adapted. We all had to make accommodations for work, for school, and for our sanity! That said, young children mostly desire us to show genuine interest in them, and do not want to hear or talk much about our work.
We will soon face a new set of decisions about how we will do our work. It would be wise to first assess what has and has not worked well over the past 18 months. Here are some initial questions.
- Before the pandemic, did you have healthy boundaries between work and home?
- Have there been any unexpected benefits or blessings of the past year?
- Has your collaboration with co-workers suffered? To what degree?
- List the top 5 ways your loosened boundaries have impacted your life.
- Ask your spouse, significant other, kids, or roommate how changed boundaries have impacted them.
Ready for a Hybrid Redux Work World?
At present, a great deal of uncertainty remains about the future of work. The pandemic does not offer a determined stop-date, which has led employers to talk about choice, flexibility, and hybrid models. Not stated is that the work associated with your position still needs to be done well. A few questions to consider here:
- How would you design your work to optimize your career success?
- How would you design your life to optimize your personal, family, and interpersonal happiness?
- How would you design and reset the boundaries among these so you can achieve both career success and personal happiness?
Creating a New Set of Boundaries
In some ways, my pre-COVID commute home was an easier, physical way to set boundaries between my work-self and my Dad-self. The hybrid work model will require many more conscious choices and personal commitments if you are going to reestablish healthy boundaries. Now is a great time to write down the pros and cons of the hybrid choices you may be considering.
If your plan is to incorporate some form of regular work from home, consider taking the time to think through how you might establish firmer boundaries between work-life and home-life:
- How can you improve your home workspace so that it is less likely to spill over into your personal life?
- Is there a hard start/stop to your workday? If the answer is no … was there a hard start/stop when you worked at the office?
- Are there places in your home that are off-limits to work? Are there times and days of the week that are off-limits to work?
- What are the most meaningful non-work pursuits that you have sidelined during the pandemic? (These can be powerful motivations to reset boundaries so that you have the time for these important personal pursuits.)
Your employer, should you have one, will likely ask you to share your post-pandemic working preferences. If you’re self-employed or own or run a business, you can ask this of yourself. Why not take this time to look at the whole of your life and consider reinstituting some healthy boundaries? You, and your family, will be happy you did!
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