As a result of the Corona crisis, work and private life are becoming increasingly intertwined. A strict separation of both worlds is currently hardly possible for many people. But what will things look like after the crisis?
“Home office as a home environment in which one can work in a concentrated and productive manner” – until a few months ago, this description was quite accurate. Within one’s own four walls, it was possible to continue working on projects or to make business phone calls without distraction from colleagues. Of course, this is still the case oftentimes. However, until recently, the possibility of working in the home office was something special and not standardized everywhere. The decision to work at home was based on voluntariness. With the beginning of the Corona crisis, it often became a compulsory measure, and many working people perceive it exactly like that. In the meantime, home office is a great challenge, especially for those who have to combine job, family and household.
The line between private and professional life is becoming increasingly blurred
Many people work more in the home office than in the office because they do not have a real knocking-off time and change of location. Home is no longer just a place to switch off and relax, but now also a workplace. The lines between ‘work’ and ‘life’ are disappearing. In addition, the lack of alternative leisure activities and the (social) isolation increase the temptation to simply continue working. As a result, the balance is increasingly shifting towards the ‘work’ level.
Family and children are among the biggest obstacles in home office
After the morning rituals, which are to be maintained even in these times, we sit down at the desk, do our work, then have a lunch break and continue until the hour mark is met. For many, the separation of business and private life continues to work well. However, those who, due to closed day-care centres and schools, currently have an additional 24/7 job as a mother or father know that the reality looks quite different right now. Between answering emails, phone calls and video conferences, children often need support with their homework and seek the attention of their parents. Consistently working several hours at a time is no longer feasible.
In a recent survey conducted by the survey institute Civey, based in Berlin, among 2,500 professionals who currently have the option to work in a home office, around one-fifth of those surveyed said that disruptions caused by family and children were one of the biggest obstacles they faced. In addition, about one in three also stated that they were less concentrated in the current situation.
Blocks in new everyday life are more variable
This new and unusual mixture of both worlds requires creative solutions and flexible models. When and where can work be done? Who looks after the children during this time if necessary? Are there situations that can be used to work undisturbed? Is it possible to distribute the work to marginal times? Many people are currently dealing with these and similar questions. If both parents are working, it is important to coordinate and find a common solution. For only few people it is imaginable that one partner shuts himself off completely and concentrates on work while the other looks after the family and vice versa.
A strict separation of job, family and leisure time is almost impossible for most people in the current situation. Instead, the blocks are becoming more variable: instead of eight hours of work and the rest of the day family and leisure, the day could be structured more like this for example: three to four hours of work, other commitments such as shopping or home schooling, followed by work again and so on. The ‘new everyday life’ is organised around fixed appointments such as online meetings, telephone conferences, doctor’s appointments etc., gaps must be used more intensively. This requires very good planning. Nevertheless, something can always come up in between, which we must react to flexibly and adjust our schedule accordingly.
Work-Life-Balance in the truest sense of the word
If at some point, normality returns to our lives, this more flexible arrangement may be retained. Perhaps the crisis offers the chance to let go of our still rigid structures and to reschedule. The business buzzword ‘work-life balance’ takes on a whole new meaning. The risk is not being able to satisfy all interests at the same time. Neither too much work should be done nor should the private share become too large. Everyone must find the right way to balance work, family and leisure.