Before working from home, it was easy for me to separate my professional life from my personal life. I could take off my work hat as soon as I walked through the front door and immediately put on my mom and wife hat. My daily ritual consisted of getting my family ready for the day, commuting to the office, catching up with colleagues over coffee, and bouncing ideas off my teammates before a client presentation. After my evening commute, which doubles as my transition time, my home life routine would fall into place.
Now that we’re all blurring the lines between office and home, the concept of work-life balance is evolving into work-life unity. Before COVID-19, work and life were more divided than they are today. Rituals are morphing, technology is bringing us closer together, and colleagues and clients have a front row seat to our living rooms, home offices, bedrooms, and kitchens, thus uniting us more than ever before.
Every part of our lives is united, and it isn’t as easy to compartmentalize our daily routines. As more companies get closer to transitioning back into the office it will be important to remember that employees are now functioning under this work-life unity mantra, and some may want to continue working that way, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Embracing new rituals, putting technology to good use, and empowering employees to continue to share parts of their personal lives can lead to more engaged teams.
There are a few short-term solutions to help team members embrace work-life unity, without losing the balance they value, when heading back to the office:
Think of all the traditions within the office that may need to be refreshed. Hand sanitizing stations will become the new water cooler catch-up spot, communal coffee pots will be replaced with walks to the nearest coffee shop, and individual caddies with mini white boards, cleaning supplies, and markers will take the place of shared collaboration boards. Additionally, finding creative ways to mark new break areas with environmental graphics or scheduling walks outside are just a few examples of how to unite employees again, and get them back into their office groove, while staying safe.
Most people prefer in-person, face-to-face meetings, but our clients, partners, and maybe even a few colleagues may not be returning to the office at the same time, and visitors may not be permitted for a while. Social distancing is forcing us to use video conferencing we probably weren’t as comfortable with before, and with that, we are communicating better than we were before. Seeing facial expressions and body language have a significant impact on successful professional relationships and leveraging these technologies at the office will maintain this unity we built up while away from the office.
Bring home to work
Working from home brings daily distractions along with it. Whether it’s a noisy pet, curious toddler, or a roommate passing by, our co-workers are seeing more of our personal lives than ever before. For those that are passionate about their families and hobbies, they may want to continue sharing more at work. Individual cork boards for personalization or uniform picture frames to match the office aesthetic can be a way to share more of your home life at the office. Installing personal lockers for employees to store these keepsakes during deep cleanings can help mitigate germs. Companies may also encourage more high-tech ways to showcase personal anecdotes. One example could be to ask employees to share photos that can be displayed digitally on monitors throughout the office.
In some ways, social distancing and stay-at-home policies brought us closer together. I think we are all learning a lot about ourselves and the ways we work. Reinventing rituals, leveraging technology, and bringing aspects of home when returning to the office will help maintain those connections we made while working from home, uniting us stronger than before.
Laura Grodoski, Interior Designer
Laura is a talented interior designer with more than 20 years of experience. With a background in theatrical set and lighting design and corporate workplace design, she is passionate about taking a client's vision and transforming it into a reality. She has designed corporate workplaces in a variety of industries including technology and media, finance, and law.