Today, Covid-19 has brought a new reality to the world of the professional. I am referring to working from home and the impacts on work-life balance. For some, that balance has even come with extra responsibilities, like teachers for their children. For me, this period has been an interesting experience that included restarting an old career.
Impacts of Working from Home
My experience has been interesting because I changed jobs during the pandemic. Covid had altered my previous job’s role and responsibilities. Before Covid, my job had included lots of travel and only some time working from home. Covid, eliminated that travel, and my role became one of constant working at home and Team’s calls.
Initially, I loved working from home. It eliminated the need to drive back and forth from work. I had flexible hours, which allowed me to run errands if needed, take the dog for a walk or take a break from my computer. Best of all, I felt like I was getting more done in the same amount of time.
What I didn’t realize was that I was working more hours. I could now jump into my work while my coffee was brewing. Next, I slowly found myself getting outside less during the day. Finally, I didn’t take a lunch break away from my computer as often. Some days, I woke and never left my house. Without being around other people, I started to lose that sense of community.
As I lost the sense of community, it led to a feeling of despair. I no longer knew where my work stopped and my life started. Some days I felt trapped, my relationship suffered and so on. This led me to realize something needed to change.
Time for a Change
I was fortunate, as for years now, I have kept my foot in the door by being a part-time engineer. I would review ACA’s work, sign and seal projects, and complete an occasional design when they needed it. So, when the opportunity presented, I jumped at the challenge of changing jobs. I thought to myself that with the new job, I had the chance to re-establish a true work-life balance.
I quickly learned that I had stepped into a different challenge. As a new employee, you want to prove you are worth the selection. You want to establish yourself as a reliable and knowledgeable team member. So, for me, I went from a slow and at times long day, to a fast-paced day that never seemed to have enough hours.
See, as a civil engineer, every project is about time. You have a client who has come to you because they want to complete a project in a certain amount of time. You have reviewed their needs and developed a plan with budgeted amounts of time. Finally, you have regulatory submission timelines to adhere to and meetings to attend.
What Have I Learned?
Though I still struggle with it at times, I continue to work to re-establish my work-life balance. So here a few of my top tips for ensuring you establish or maintain a healthy balance.
- Re-enter the office environment:
I know this one might not be one for everyone, but it has been a great benefit for me. If you cannot get back into the office, find another type of group or activity where you can socialize. See the office provided something I needed… human interaction. We are all social creatures, no matter how much we realize it. Getting into the office has helped me redevelop a sense that I belong to something bigger.
- At Home, create a separate workspace:
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a room they can convert into an office. I have been able to convert a spare bedroom, but there are some keys no matter what. Make it a space away from where you eat, sleep and relax. The ability to close a door creates a great barrier from seeing what still needs done or how accessible it is.
- Re-establish a schedule:
There are reasons a business runs scheduled shifts and hours. It is more than setting availability for clients; operational hours create boundaries. Flexibility is great, until it leads to not knowing when to stop. If you worked 8-4 before Covid, get back to that to that. Make sure to leave time to get up and stretch out, take a walk or even eat lunch away from your computer. The time you save from not having to drive, can become time to work on yourself. Take a walk, lift some weights or read a book.
- Be a weekend warrior:
No, that does not mean to continue to open your computer and work. It means get outside, spend time with friends or family, go for a walk or work around the house. This sense of accomplishment helps refresh your mind. Time outdoors can re-energize you and break up the constant presence of your work.
- Make to-do lists:
This one may not seem like it will help with work-life balance, but the benefits can be amazing. Too often, when we work from home, our workload and housework blur together into a big pile of items. Then we ask, how we can get it all done? Or worse, begin to stress that we are forgetting something. By establishing these lists, we get them out of our mind and onto paper. We decrease the feeling of forgetting and increase the sense of accomplishment.
Always remember, we are social beings and need to interact with others. Additionally, the power of feeling accomplishment is important to wanting to tackle more. So, when you are constantly isolated and feel like you are getting nothing done, that is when despair sets in. Take a moment and re-establish a work-life balance that brings happiness and fulfillment to yourself too.
Who is ACA?
Started in 1992 and located in Chester County, PA ACA has grown to become a full-service civil engineering firm. Today, we merge professional services with practical knowledge for residential and commercial projects. No matter the scale, from installing a fence, to building a structure or developing land, you need permits. Because the approval process includes many permits and agencies, it can be a headache. Working with ACA’s full-service team saves you time, money, and headaches. Every step of the way, we are here to support you and educate you about the process. Here are some of the basic services we provide:
Construction Management | Civil Engineering | Environmental Permitting | Septic System Testing and Design | Land Surveying | Wetland Delineations and Mitigation
Please feel free to browse our website or if working on a project or need help, contact us at (610) 469-3830.