Verizon's Women in Business Work/Life Integration Workshop
Alexis Zinberg knows all about balancing work and life when working from home — because she's living it. Alexis is an executive vice president of the Palmer Group and the founder of Women Championing Women, a community focused on the issues women face. Like many of us, she's been working remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Alexis recently led a Wednesday-morning salon for women in the same position — part of Verizon's Women in Business series. She shared tips that can help any woman manage stress while tackling the unique challenges of working at home.
Pandemic pressure hits women hardest
Working from home eliminates commute stress, but it can also lead to longer workdays, and work invading weekends and family time. Research has shown that while the pandemic has been stressful for everyone, women have been most affected. In fact, many women have been forced out of the workforce, and 40% of women say that their emotional and mental health and financial stress have gotten worse since the start of the pandemic.
Fortunately, there are some measures you can take to make working from home operate more smoothly.
Set boundaries when your workspace and home space are the same
First, set up a consistent workspace. Whether it's your bedroom, a home office, or a corner of the living room, working in the same place every time keeps you focused and helps you get into “work mode.”
Do what you can to create privacy. This goes beyond having your own space. Create a physical barrier as a cue that tells other family members when you can't be disturbed. Alexis uses an inexpensive folding green screen to signal that she's on a call and not available for domestic emergencies.
Finally, establish responsibilities. Don't be afraid to delegate tasks to other team members so that your job doesn't consume your life. Don't take on a problem that isn't yours. And don't forget that you can delegate home chores to the rest of the family as well.
Combat stress and “camera fatigue”
Being on camera is stressful — we have to focus on our own appearance as well as on the conversation. Since the pandemic began, many meetings that were formerly handled by a conference call have been converted to video. Although this can be helpful by giving us a sense of connection to coworkers we're not seeing every day in person, remember that not every conference call needs to be a video call. Schedule some voice-only calls when the visual doesn't matter, and enjoy the break.
Speaking of breaks, make sure to take them. Schedule regular “brain breaks” to help prevent burnout and keep you sharper during the workday. If possible, build time to run an errand to take a short walk between tasks. If that's not feasible, get up and stretch and do a few jumping jacks or something similar. Your body and mind will thank you, and you'll actually boost your productivity.
Make sure to use the right collaborative tools to make work easier and more efficient. Are you leveraging the right tools for your team? Consider reverse whiteboards. Collaborative tools can help you improve your scheduling and processes.
Support employees' mental health
Even before the pandemic, workers were struggling with mental health issues that led to missed workdays and lost productivity. Provide easy access to mental health resources for employees to explore without sharing sensitive information at work or worrying about stigma. Make sure your health plans include mental health coverage, and communicate those options to employees through HR.
As a manager or business owner, stay aware of your employees' mental and physical health. Focus on empathy in your interactions to understand their challenges.
Redefining work culture can create a healthier environment for everyone. Many companies are offering meditation spaces or mindfulness classes to help employees manage stress.
This time has had some upsides
The pandemic forced many of us to slow down and reflect. Perhaps we've found new hobbies and interests, or learned new skills we'll carry forward into the future. In addition, it's given many women a push to renegotiate boundaries and responsibilities both at home and at work — and setting boundaries is a crucial skill to develop. We've all had a few hilarious moments as well, like when a pet or child decided to make a cameo appearance at that important video meeting.
Finally, being honest about the challenges we face — and the times when we aren't doing so well — can help other women see that they aren't alone in their struggles. If we can become more authentic, that's a benefit we'll carry through the rest of our lives.