I’m a manager at a medium-sized bank. Due to the lockdown, many of our managers and workers had to work from home for three months. During that period, our department head kept on giving me demanding assignments — much more demanding than my typical load before the pandemic. I find myself working an average of 11 hours a day because of the tight deadlines given me. As a result, I don’t have the luxury of relaxing and enjoying my family even when I’m at home. When I’m finished with work, I’m so tired that I find myself falling asleep to be ready for the next day. My question is: how can I have a work-life balance while working from home? — Stormy Weather.
In church, a nine-year-old boy listening to the sermon about “religious traitors” asked his father: “Dad, what is a religious traitor?” His father replied: “A person who leaves our church to join another.” The boy added: “Then, what do you call a person who leaves another church to join ours?”
The father replied: “He’s a convert, my son. A convert.”
It all depends on how you see it. You can brand someone a traitor or a convert depending on your particular situation, or how it benefits your organization. When you’re at home working, management might view a request for work-life balance as bordering on unreasonableness, if not stupidity.
Of course, regardless of occupation, everybody needs to recharge their batteries after the daily grind. Don’t get too busy working that you forget to make a life. The trouble is that management might not see things that way. It may even think that your opportunities to spend time with your family are greater at home. That might be the reason management is giving you an unreasonable workload with tight deadlines — to keep you busy while you’re surrounded by potential distractions.
DEALING WITH OVERLOAD
There are many articles out there about achieving work-life balance, but none of them have contemplated a situation like the pandemic, particularly when you’re working from home. To give you some idea how to cope with your unreasonable workload and enjoy a little family time, try the following approaches:
One, know your priorities subject to management approval. It is as simple as double-checking with your boss which tasks to prioritize. You can list everything on your plate and reconcile them with the boss’s priorities.
Two, consider only the things that are humanly possible. You may be tempted to impress your boss by working from home unsupervised at a 60-hour a week job. Don’t even try it. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure. Be realistic. You can’t think of work as a process of exceeding management expectations. There’s always a limit to everything even when working from home.
Three, reflect at the end of each day. Take a moment to step back from your daily routine. Consider how you spent your time compared to the actual results. Are you doing low-value activities that produce few results? Can you delegate tasks to your colleagues? Is there a better way of doing things? Chances are, you’ll realize how to work smarter, not harder.
Last, continue to demonstrate your commitment and enthusiasm. When you propose ideas for change, your boss may think you’re challenging his authority. Be careful. No matter how good your intentions are, your idea of work-life balance while working from home might be taken as an affront to your boss. To avoid this, follow the boss’s dictates as best you can.
During a pandemic, it’s not always a good idea to pick a fight with anyone, much less your boss. Understand that you both want to improve labor productivity and at the same time enjoy a semblance of normalcy in your personal and family life. Even if you succeed in improving your work process by eliminating unnecessary procedures, your boss may think that you’re freed up to do something else.
Therefore, whenever you plan to propose changes, whether they involve a single task or the tasks expected over an 11-hour work day, it’s necessary to think of their implications on management expectations and family life. Every job has considerable downtime. The causes may vary, especially during this period when business is slowing down.
While you would not want to project idleness or having an excess of free time while working from home, the most practical way to go about things is to eliminate unnecessary distractions that make your boss think you are unproductive. Better, you can agree to meet the boss’s deadlines by promising that everything “would be in your desk by tomorrow morning,” which leaves you enough wiggle room to take an afternoon siesta.