Balancing family, work and health in this ‘new normal’

Before the world went into lockdown and working from home became the norm (for those of us who can), I used to WFH 2-3 days a week in order to help manage my fatigue/migraines. This combination of office and home worked well – lots of meetings and face to face conversations when in the office, some phone calls and plenty of time to get actual work done during my days at home. When it first looked likely that the advice would be for all of us to work from home for a while, I was pretty happy – I found being at home much better for managing my health and assumed this would be an extension of my normal work from home days. I could not have been more wrong. Everyone went video call crazy. My diary was packed with back to back video calls from 8am to 4pm and beyond, there was barely time for a bathroom break some days. The workload increased, the pressure felt immense and we were also battling IT issues daily, adding to the stress. Then the schools and nurseries closed and my two young children were home all day, every day.

I wrote a few posts at the time talking about the difficulties faced during these early days and weeks and the added stress of moving house a couple of weeks into lockdown. Adjusting to this new way of working definitely took a while, but now we are pretty firmly in the routine, I’ve noticed there are definitely still a bunch of challenges, which are making finding that balance between family, work and health, tricky.

IT has now been upgraded and is less of an issue and video calls via Teams have well and truly become the norm in our company. I have been finding this really hard to deal with though, especially when calls are booked back to back and for most of the day. Doing a bit of research though I realised I’m not the only one – Video Call Fatigue is a real thing. For me, it is definitely triggering migraines and adding to my fatigue and brain fog.

In some instances, people are finding that they are feeling more exhausted when working from home than they would when working in the office. This exhaustion is even the case after factoring in a long commute.

MedicalNewsToday, What is video call fatigue?

Despite schools and nurseries opening back up, there are still times when juggling childcare and work is necessary (especially during the holidays) which means working a defined day is tricky – sometimes you dip in and out, which means you can’t really follow some of the advice you are given to ‘switch off devices’ at the end of your working day to have a proper break. Most evenings I need to catch up on some work, which means from 7am to 10pm, there is little time for a decent stretch to truly switch off.

Finally, despite the fact I currently spend all day every day in the same house as my husband, we barely see each other. Both of our jobs are very demanding and any breaks we take don’t usually align. We tag team looking after the kids. On occasions we do have the same time off, I often have to prioritise having a quick nap so I can make it through the rest of the day.

Resting up with my migraine ice mask

Despite the challenges, I am constantly grateful that my job can be done from home, that my company are being flexible and understanding of childcare and my ongoing health issues, and it looks like agile working is definitely going to be the future. I used to face real barriers when I needed to travel to meetings in London or beyond but I don’t think this will be much of an issue in the future – only a few meetings NEED to be done face to face and video calling is definitely here to stay.

So now, it’s really about making sure I am finding that balance and keeping myself able to work, connected to my family, and as stable as possible health wise.

Some of the things I have started doing which have definitely helped:

  • Booking out time in my diary between meetings, to avoid people putting back to back calls in there (this is still a work progress and I have way too many 4+ hour stretches without a proper break)
  • Making sure I spend some time with the kids without my work phone on me, so I can be present and not distracted by calls or emails
  • Taking my diary and workload into my own hands and making sure I am not over committing
  • Prioritising getting a decent bit of rest every day – once I get to the point my body starts forcing me to rest, I’ve pushed it too far and will end up getting sick
  • Friday night date nights. My husband and I make up for the fact we barely see each other all week by getting super dressed up, breaking out the cocktail shaker and spend the evening playing games and eating take out. It’s the highlight of my week šŸ˜
  • Trying to get a bit of fresh air every day, even if it is just sitting in the garden. Most advice tells you to exercise in order to keep healthy but one of the main issues with ME is that exercise is pretty much impossible so most days I have to make do with a bit of garden sitting
Enjoying some garden time

I am in no hurry to get back to the office – with all the restrictions and requirements in place (and the ongoing COVID-19 risk) there is no pressing need, given how well we are all working remotely. So I will continue to try and get the balance a bit better in the coming months…

Drinks and games for date night

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