As school moves in, work-life balance moves out

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has not improved since March, shut down our schools and forced us to continue our education in a virtual environment. With the school year starting online, the line between home and work life has become more blurred than ever.

Before quarantine, finding a good home-work balance was something most people attempted to accomplish to maintain a healthy state of mind. As we continue to work from home, it has become infinitely harder to do.

When we were learning in-person, moving between our homes and school created a transition period that helped our brains function better. For our entire lives, we established home as a place for relaxation and school as a place for concentration. By doing so, our minds were able to better focus at school with the promise of unwinding at home, an environment free of work-related stress. 

However, during quarantine, home has suddenly become a place for both our learning and downtime. It has become harder and harder to separate the two, thereby making it more difficult to sustain long periods of concentration during school hours. School and home are bleeding together and without the boundaries that once separated them, it is challenging for our subconscious minds to differentiate between the two.

On another front, because home and work life are now the same thing, teaching has become more personal than ever before. Prior to online learning, the height of awkwardness was to see your teacher outside of school. It would warrant a quick text to your friends and a dissection of what said teacher was doing and whether they were with someone or not. School was a more formal environment with certain unspoken rules that teachers followed to maintain a social order but outside of school, they are much more relaxed and almost a completely different person. For students, the sight of seeing a teacher in a non-school or “normal” setting was, simply put, weird.

Now, we only see teachers outside of school. Everyday, we see our teachers in a deeply personal aspect of their lives: their homes. We watch them fiddle with cameras and other technology, scenes of their home life coming into the view. We see significant others walk in backgrounds and pets walk across keyboards. We are living in a time where there is no longer a filter between personal lives and work lives.

Our current situation is uniquely unprecedented, which may take a toll on many people’s mental health. 

One strategy to help reestablish lines between personal and work life is finding a clear workspace. It may be tempting to try to concentrate on school assignments from the comfort of your bed but getting out of bed and going to a desk to work will ultimately benefit your well-being while at home. Also, it is a good way to remind your subconscious mind of the difference between working and relaxing at home.

Another useful strategy is to leave your workspace. It is important to take breaks during the day and it helps your mind to take a quick breather every once in a while, instead of sitting in front of the same desk for hours on end. During lunchtime, move to the kitchen or dining table to eat. When you have a break in between your classes, try to get up and maybe move to the living room for those ten minutes. The physical action of getting up and moving from your new workspace will help reestablish those boundaries between home and work life. 

We, as a society, feel the adversity that social distancing and working from home present. However, we must also keep in mind that staying home is crucial for the safety of yourself and those around you. Ultimately, creating boundaries in your current space is essential to maintaining both your physical and mental safety.