Going remote: Integrating work, life during COVID-19 stay-at-home order

When individuals are able to blend their career needs and the needs of their personal/family needs in a productive, overall positive manner, it’s a win-win for all involved. Lately however, work-life integration was dealt an unexpected adversary in the form of COVID-19.  Now, with a large portion of the nation working from home, keeping things copacetic between work and life (home, family, community, personal well-being, etc.) may seem a little more difficult.  

The key, according to Rachael See, EAP counselor at the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, to ensuring professional and personal activities continue to flow together nicely, is to keep a daily or weekly routine. Doing this should also help with motivation and remaining positive. 

“You want to stay flexible with the ever-changing recommendations/guidelines but you also want to have a schedule to keep you focused on predictable activities to decrease anxiety/stress related to Covid-19,” See explained. “It is still important to wake up at a specific time, take a shower, get dressed, exercise and do your normal activities throughout the week. Having a goal and purpose can help you stay mindful, live in the present and focus on what you can control in the future.”

It can also help keep you healthier. Northwestern Medicine reports that routines offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization. Those without a consistent routine are more likely to suffer from:

  • Stress
  • Poor sleep
  • Poor eating
  • Poor physical condition
  • Ineffective use of time

None of which are helpful, especially in the current environment, when emotions may already be elevated. And, when emotions are elevated, it’s expected that you might feel more irritable with those around you.

“All family members should be able to practice self-care and spend some personal time away from each other during this time, even if just in the other room alone,” See said.

“Have patience with yourself and others,” she added. “Everyone copes with change and fear differently.”

If families are noticing emotions are escalating among the members of the household more than they’d like, See recommends implementing the use of a “safe word,” that the family decides on together. When the safe word is used, a designated action plan should be followed to de-escalate the situation and reduce the tension. Action plan activities could include taking a break, stretching, meditating, doing breathing exercises and so on – the goal is for those involved to return to a calm state and relax.   

In households where school-aged children are now e-learning and/or preschoolers are looking for ways to entertain themselves, See recommends that the caregivers in the household try and spend quality time  together with the kids when they aren’t working so that the child’s needs continue to be met.

“Your children are less likely to disturb you while you’re working if they aren’t longing for attention from you all day,” See explained. “Schedule breaks throughout the work day – regardless if it’s office work or daily household work –sped some time with your kids – walk around the block, work on a puzzle, play a game, etc. Anything that is actively engaging and promoting positive interactions within the family are perfect.”

When both parts are in harmony, work-life integration – one of the five pillars of Purdue’s Healthy Boiler Program – sets the foundation for an overall fulfilling, happy and productive life.  

“Each pillar of the Healthy Boiler Program was purposely selected to support the well-being of the whole individual – physical health, financial wellness, behavioral health, social wellness and last but definitely not least, work-life integration,” said Candace Shaffer, senior director of benefits in Human Resources. “The pillars provide a solid foundation from which overall health and wellness can be maintained or improved, and COVID-19 has directly impacted the normalcy of all five.  

“Despite the challenges the coronavirus has introduced, the University remains committed to ensuring cost-controlled benefits and easily accessible resources through each of the pillars,” Shaffer added. “University-wide, adjustments have been made in order to do so, and now that work and life have collided head on, we’re all figuring out new ways to improve the integration. As we move forward in this new normal, we have the opportunity to review what we have in place, what we could benefit from adding, what is working well and places where we need to improve to facilitate overall wellness for the Purdue community.”

See agrees, acknowledging that this is a time to learn and grow from this experience.

“It’s vital to not stay in the ‘fear zone’ during this pandemic,” she added. Do not become consumed by various media outlets and refrain from personally spreading false information. Instead, maybe spend your free time exploring new hobbies or interests. Be patient and kind to others, as well as yourself because this is a process, and mistakes will be made.   

“Remember, if you are reading this you have survived and overcome hard times and challenges 100 percent of the time so far,” See said. “Your odds are good that you’ll get through this, too.”

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