COVID-19 has introduced a new layer of struggle in maintaining — or achieving — work-life balance. Playing parent, teacher and human-during-a-pandemic — all while trying to manage a career from home — has left working parents exhausted. In fact, many may say they're too exhausted to talk about how exhausted they are.
But one of the best solutions to this feeling of overwhelm, according to New York Times bestselling author Joseph Grenny and journalist Brittney Maxfield, is communication.
“As with most of the challenges we face at work, having an open and honest conversation is one of the first steps toward finding a solution,” the pair wrote in Harvard Business Review. If you've struggled through the pandemic and continue to feel at your wit's end, especially with new stressors like a return to work on the horizon, providing clarity about your boundaries to yourself and others may be beneficial to your mental health.
4 conversations to have to achieve work-life balance
There are four crucial conversations the pair suggests having to feel better:
1. A conversation with yourself.
The first crucial conversation is the one you must have with yourself. Grenny and Maxfield recommend clarifying “who you are and what you want before you can confidently negotiate your boundaries.” In order to be open and honest with others, you must be open and honest with yourself. Set personal goals, create an ideal schedule, highlight the times where you must be logged on and the times where you must be logged off. Find the balance that will work for you before you establish it with others.
2. A conversation with your boss and colleagues.
Pull your boss and colleagues aside and stress to them how much you care about your career, and how you've succeeded thus far. Then, show them specifically how you'd like to change your approach to ensure long-term success and balance.
Grenny and Maxfield recommend saying something along the lines of: “I want to manage large projects. I’m at my best when I’m getting important things done. I’m willing to sprint for short periods of time to ensure that everything works. But these sprints will have to be occasional."
3. A conversation with your partner or spouse.
Have an honest conversation with your partner or spouse about your mutual goals for your relationship, your children and your family. Share how your current system is helping you reach those goals, and be honest about how they aren't or where you're struggling. Come up with solutions together.
If your spouse is not open to asking for flexible work hours, be encouraging to them and offer to work with them to come to a solution that works for your family and their work culture.
4. A conversation with your child(ren).
If your children are old enough to comprehend this conversation, include them in it. Talk to them about the struggles you are facing and the work-life balance you have been working to achieve over the last year. They may have questions about how their lives or your life will change in 2021. Be honest, but be careful not to play the victim.
“Blaming your organization for your lack of flexibility or stress at home doesn’t solve problems; it creates unfair and false resentments,” Grenny and Maxfield wrote. “The last thing you want to do is teach your children to despise the idea of work. Instead, model by example.”
The bottom line
Your professional — and personal — health depends on you striking a balance between work and life. Although having these conversations is difficult, they are necessary when combating being overwhelmed, and they can go a long way in helping lower your stress. You can expect these tough talks to pay off in the long run.