5 Tips for Achieving Work/Life Balance During the Pandemic

Before the pandemic, a healthy work/life balance was important for preventing burnout. Now it's even more critical. As a water lab manager, you need to take care of yourself during these strange and difficult times. With these five tips, you can ensure that work doesn't consume your personal life while you're juggling new COVID-19 challenges on top of everything else.

1. Shift Priorities

This is not the time for perfection. Instead, adjust your expectations for the amount of work you and your team can realistically accomplish each day. As always, safety is the top priority. Ensure employees are following social distancing best practices and your lab's COVID-19 safety procedures. Aim to be productive, but give yourself grace if you fall behind on nonessential tasks, such as optimizing your website or clearing your inbox.

Lead your team with compassion. It's reasonable for you and your staff to experience heightened stress, anxiety, and pressure during the pandemic. Extend extra flexibility and patience to yourself and your colleagues while priorities change.

2. Set Boundaries

It's easy for work and home life to blend together, especially right now. Set firm boundaries with colleagues so they know what to expect. For example, if you change your hours to accommodate social distancing, make this clear so you don't get inundated with employee questions while you're off the clock.

Entrepreneur points out that hyper-communication, such as being available 24/7, increases stress and ultimately compromises productivity. Some good ways to set work boundaries include:

  • Turning off email notifications.
  • Establishing office hours when employees can ask questions.
  • Declining meetings you don't need to attend.
  • Delegating tasks to your team.
  • Asking not to be copied on unnecessary emails.
  • Turning off your computer at the end of the day.

3. Stick to a Schedule

Time feels more fluid now that events are canceled and more tasks are done remotely. Lean on your time management skills to keep you grounded, focused, and productive.

Time blocking can be an especially effective technique for keeping your work and personal lives separate. It's a simple way to stay organized and on top of your to-do list, no matter what you're up against. Schedule your meetings on Tuesdays, for instance, and set aside an hour each morning for emails. If you're filling in at the bench, resist the urge to check your phone.

Don't forget to include breaks in your schedule. Intentionally setting aside time for activities such as lunches away from your desk, brisk walks outside, and catch-ups with friends will help you refuel your mind and body so you can be more productive.

4. Communicate on Your Terms

Due to operational changes prompted by the pandemic, you'll likely find yourself communicating with clients more than usual. It's important to initiate these communications on your terms to avoid frequent or unnecessary interruptions to your workday.

If your lab's sample drop-off hours have changed, for example, be sure to announce the news by emailing your customers and putting up appropriate signage around your facility. Consider calling your most sensitive clients to tell them about any changes to the lab's hours or services. Be proactive in your approach but answer questions on your own time.

5. Make Time for You

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to reconsider our priorities. While self-care practices might have once felt indulgent, they're now a necessity.

When you're dealing with so much stress, it can be easy to forget your basic needs. You can't do a good job if you burn out or get sick, though. By focusing on your own mental and physical health, you'll be able to better contribute to team efforts. Prioritize sleep, nutrition, exercise, and hydration to prevent burnout and keep yourself in good health.

It can be easy to throw yourself into your work, especially when so much feels out of your control. However, an unhealthy work/life balance can take a toll. Use these tips to remain resilient during this challenging phase of your career.

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Kelly McSweeney
Science and Technology Writer
Armed with a master's degree in writing and a decade of professional work in scientific publishing, Kelly McSweeney writes about science and technology innovations. She translates complicated topics into stories that capture the curiosity of everyone from casual readers to technical experts. Kelly has degrees from Emerson College and the University of Vermont, and has worked on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics publications at Wiley, In Compliance magazine, and Pearson. Her articles about the latest research are published by ZDNet, Northrop Grumman, and Wiley.