Boundaries between work and life have been dissolving as cell phones and the internet made it possible to reach people outside the office.
But when the pandemic hit in 2020, sending legions of office workers to log in from home, separating work from the rest of life became a totally different ballgame. And it’s taken a big toll on mental health.
Work is the leading cause of stressTrusted Source among Americans, and research shows that work has grown considerably more intense over the past 50 years.
Two-thirds of U.S. workers believe that burnout had worsened during the pandemic, according to a survey by the recruiting site Indeed.
And parents are facing especially extreme stress juggling work with other responsibilities, as are Communities of Color and others disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
But many workers also report benefits of working from home, including increased productivity, flexibility, and convenience. And remote work appears to have staying power: Ninety-nine percent of HR leaders believe some form of hybrid work will continue into the future, according to a survey by Gartner.
“The pandemic is forcing everyone to rethink the traditional structures, which I think will be really positive long term.” — Samantha Ettus
Such major changes have necessitated fresh conversations about work-life balance, and experts believe we may be well-positioned to make real progress.
“We’ve never seen a more seismic shift,” says Samantha Ettus, author of “The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction.” “The pandemic is forcing everyone to rethink the traditional structures, which I think will be really positive long term.”
For most people, the days of clocking in to an office from 9 to 5 are gone. And the challenges and benefits of achieving better work-life integration are in the spotlight like never before.
Responsibility lies with employers to create respectful and accommodating professional environments, ultimately recognizing that people have lives outside of work. More companies are acknowledging the need for change and trying out policies like increased paid time off or even a 4-day workweek.
Though adding an extra day to the weekend has shown some promise, studies also suggest that the path to achieving better work-life balance is more complicated
Research has shown that companies can improve employee well-being by giving them more control over their work, ditching unnecessary tasks, and fostering a sense of community.
On an individual level, workers can also benefit from setting up clear boundaries, communicating proactively, and evaluating their own priorities.
The nature of work may have changed, but it doesn’t have to take over our lives.