In addition to possibly hearing “You’re on mute!” much less in the near future, there are plenty of other things to look forward to as a good number of us head back to our desks – both in the office and at school – in the coming weeks. An eased ability to collaborate, more defined timelines for getting work done, and simply being out in the wider world are but a few.
However, a study done this spring by Leger in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies revealed that just 20 per cent of Canadians are eager to ditch the WFH life and go back to in-office business full-time. In fact, 40 per cent of Canadians, according to the stats, “would prefer working a mix of a few days a week at their workplace and a few days a week at home.”
Perhaps that’s because there’s a greater perception of autonomy present when you don’t have colleagues dropping by to give their two cents every two seconds. Or maybe it’s because hammering out a report is slightly less stressful when you can do it wearing your sweats and slippers. And let’s face it, the commute from one’s bed to the couch/home office/dining table is far superior to dealing with traffic jams and train delays.
There’s a silver lining to resuming “normal life” in some capacities, though. And it’s likely there were aspects to the way your life was running pre-pandemic that you’d like to change with this new chance to be your best self.
Boundary-setting was quite literally foisted on us by quarantine – but maybe you’d like to keep drawing lines around your private life and personal time now that lockdown has lifted? As well as an opportunity to normalize saying “no” to taking on extra projects and time-sucking tasks, consider this your time to advocate for what you really need to do your work well. Whether it’s carving out 20 minutes for an afternoon nap, or defining what a work day looks like (i.e. starting before 9 and ending by 4), we say carpe diem with a dash of “you do you.”
Create a schedule that fosters synergy
For many people, particularly parents, the last year-and-a-half has forced us to simply get by as well as we can. But leeway can only take us so far – now there’s an opportunity to tend to ourselves and others in a manner that also motivates, engages and nurtures. Executive coach and productivity/organization expert Clare Kumar champions this notion as “taking care of the home team.”
Along with adopting a more structured sleeping schedule (for both kids and grown-ups) and using analog clocks to better understand the passing of time, Kumar recommends stepping back to look at what each family member can contribute to the household to help it function optimally. She says that parents should be mindful of the “capabilities of each individual,” and advises that families revisit expectations with each school term.
Kumar also suggests holding a family meeting every weekend, when everyone is feeling energized, to get on the same page. “Generally, it’s a midmorning-type thing,” she says. This meeting can be used to gather thoughts on the days ahead – who’s doing what, and where and when. She advocates for the use of a paper calendar for this purpose, too. “This gets everybody very aware of using something to ‘make’ time,” she says, adding that the strategy presents scheduling as “less abstract,” and more about sharing common interests and goals.
Maximize your commute (but that doesn’t mean answering e-mails)
With work-life balance becoming more tenuous thanks to apps that make us reachable essentially 24/7, it’s tempting to use your commute time as an outlet for getting things done. According to executive coach and mindfulness coach Meg Salter, this attitude ultimately does us no favours.
“We often treat our commute like an it’s an extension of our either our work life or home life, when we should really be thinking about it as its own thing,” she says. Instead of seeing commuting as a period for “pushing through” with work tasks – or, conversely, completely zoning out – she says that we should envision it as a moment for positive engagement and self-discovery.
This could be courtesy of creating a killer playlist from an era you lived through before your corporate or parenting role, as one of her clients has done. “He connected with a part of him that got put to one side when he became an executive,” she says. “And it got him to remember, ‘Yeah, that’s who I am. I’m not just this job. I’m a whole person.’”
If you’re craving the socialization that was lost due to the pandemic, Salter says having close friends on speed dial for a catch-up is a good way to unwind between work and home life. Alternatively, if you want to use your commute to build up your mindfulness, using a meditation app while in transit or “driving mindfully,” as Salter describes it, will help fortify you. “It’s about putting all your attention on the road,” she says.
For those finding it difficult to squeak in time for fitness, commuting actually affords the chance to get some steps in by walking for a few minutes before or after jumping on public transit or getting back in your car. The bonus: enjoying the great outdoors.
Give your feet some love as they slip out of slippers and into real shoes again
“During the pandemic, a lot of people noticed that their feet have gotten bigger,” says osteopath and orthotic accessory designer Dr. Liza Egbogah. “When they go to put on their dress shoes, they’re finding them way too tight and uncomfortable.” If you’re in the same spot, Dr. Egbogah advises investing in a shoe stretcher to minimize discomfort.
She also points to a stretch move called “dancer’s pose” as one to try if your arches could use some strengthening.
“You balance on one foot while opening up your hip flexors,” she says, noting that it’s not just the vamp of a high heel that can make your proverbial dogs bark.
“When your hips are tight, it causes you to overpronate more, and that puts strain on your arches as well.” And having a lacrosse ball to roll under your feet every night will allow for more comfortable shoe-wearing the next day, she adds.
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