Maintaining work-life balance in a post-COVID-19 world
By Mohit Bassi
The present spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will have a greater societal impact than the 9/11 terrorist bombings in New York (Atkeson, 2020; Gerber, 2020). A large part of the global efforts to curtail COVID-19 involves staying at home to stop the spread of the pandemic (Sajed & Amgain, 2020). This sudden sociocultural change has led to mass efforts in shifting education, training and work programs online; individuals have increasingly started working from home and engaging in “remote work” (Sajed & Amgain, 2020). However, this transition to working from home brings new challenges and considerations for bosses, employees and career practitioners.
Mental health is affected by the pandemic
Sigmund Freud has been credited for saying “Love and work … work and love, that’s all there is … love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness” (Sherman, 2009). Until recently, most people have experienced a physical separation between where they work (eg, an office) and where they spend time with loved ones (eg, at home). Work can give our lives meaning, but it is also a source of socialization (George, 2010), goal orientation (Curral & Marques-Quinteiro, 2009), cognitive flow (Salanova, Bakker, & Llorens, 2006) and reciprocity (Arthur & Kram, 1989). For many individuals, taking care of oneself and replacing these needs have become difficult when shifting toward independent work from home (Dechen, Wangyal, Tanimoto, Sato, & Kanai, 2020). Uncertainty from the pandemic has led to increases in anxiety, depression, and stress among healthcare workers and the general public (Liu, et al., 2020). Especially for parents, the task of taking care of loved ones while managing work may be very challenging (Traube, et al., 2020).
Remote work is a future that cannot be ignored
Just as the 9/11 terrorist attacks indefinitely changed global social policies related to privacy, security and travel (Paquin & James, 2014), it is anticipated that COVID-19 will have lasting impacts on how we work and will accelerate existing digital infrastructure to further support and enable remote work (Greenhalgh, Koh, & Car, 2020). For example, the use of telehealth and telemedicine offers healthcare providers (eg, doctors, mental health workers) access to their patients remotely (Hollander & Carr, 2020). University classes are shifting online, and educational institutions are building massive open online courses (MOOCs) available for members of the public to take (Breslow, et al., 2013). The advent of 5G networks and growing telecommunications infrastructure means faster speeds, lower latency and a more connected world (Lema, et al., 2017). Although remote work is not possible for every profession, it is possible that the future of traditional work may largely be supplemented, or supplanted, by remote work. However, many workers are faced with unmet social and cognitive needs that are typically attained through traditional work.
Balancing mental health and productivity
“Find three hobbies you love: One to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative” – Anonymous
In a world where we are working and living from home, it can be easy to get caught up in distractions related to work and life. At a time like this, we must be mindful of our unmet needs, especially during a global pandemic where physical health may be given more attention than our mental health. Ask yourself (and your clients): What hobby or aspirations have you been putting off? What is something that you never found time for, that you can possibly do now from your home? In times of uncertainty about the future, now might just be the best time to pick up a book, set a new fitness goal, learn to draw or meditate.
Mohit Bassi is a master’s student in Counselling Psychology at the University of British Columbia. He is a recipient of the SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship and is interested in mental health and creativity research as it applies to career development. His thesis is on culturally adapting counselling/psychotherapy with Indo-Canadian immigrants.
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