Maintaining work-life balance has been difficult for many workers, especially as lockdown drags on, but in some respects it may be good to let the lines between our work and personal lives blur. You may not have realized how many of your social interactions previously happened in the office; take the time to check in on your colleagues, rather than just checking up on them.
Professor Cox hopes that our experiences during this outbreak will help to make the case for more flexible working in the long-term. Mr. Daisley warns, however, against imposing remote working on all workers as companies perhaps realize that a Zoom subscription is cheaper than office space.
“The challenge is that it’s not necessarily equitable in how it falls,” he said. Those with smaller or shared homes may struggle to find a good work space, and younger employees could lose out on the informal mentorship that comes with working alongside more experienced colleagues.
Stay close (from a distance)
Just because you can’t visit people in person doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch. In fact, you should make more of an effort to do so.
Aaron Balick, a London-based psychotherapist and author, said it was OK to mourn the loss of in-person interactions.
“It’s really important to acknowledge that we have actually lost something that’s very, very important to human well-being,” he said. “I don’t think there is a quick fix to that with technology.”
Arranging digital meet-ups requires more planning, which can be tiring. If you’re frequently making video calls and using instant messaging for work and with friends, it’s a good idea to put short breaks between the two. “If you don’t give yourself that signal, it’s possible that those social interactions will feel like work,” Dr. Balick said.
Professor Cox suggests using different devices to establish a kind of mental boundary: You could use your laptop for work calls and chats, and your phone for your social life.
When spending so much time on your devices, be mindful of the content you consume and share. “Social media is a place where you definitely see emotional contagion happening really easily,” Dr. Balick said. “And unfortunately, what I like to call our psychological ‘hot’ emotions, like outrage and anger, tend to be more contagious than warm, cuddly feelings.”
Given everyone is already on edge, you may want to be a bit more careful with your own social media posts. A bit of gallows humor can actually be prosocial in bringing friends closer, but it’s probably not something you want to share publicly. Stick to a private chat where people understand the context.
It may also be a good idea to create some coronavirus-free digital spaces, such as a WhatsApp group in which you talk about any other topic. In the past, sharing endless pictures of home baking on Instagram could be perceived as somewhat insufferable, but now the digital carb influx is a nice retreat from Covid-19 horror stories.
Dr. Balick said the experience of lockdown might actually lead us to rely less on technology to sustain relationships in the long-term, as people crave those face-to-face meetings we might previously have taken for granted.
Over all, perhaps our relationship with technology will simply become more nuanced. Professor Cox notes how quickly concerns over “screen time” — never a particularly helpful concept given the myriad activities that come under its umbrella — have been pushed aside now that technology has suddenly become so crucial for both work and play. She is skeptical that people who have been newly exposed to digital tools will just abandon them once coronavirus restrictions lift.
“What we can’t predict,” she said, “is exactly what will stick.”
Read about how kids are adjusting to video chats.