Read time: 6 minutes

For all of us nonprofit staff and executives, there’s a good chance that work-life balance has been leaning to one side long before the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard to leave work behind when we’re so passionate about our mission. It’s what we live and breathe.

Now that almost half the American workforce is working from home, it’s even harder because we don’t actually have a place to separate.

Who else brainstormed a virtual fundraising campaign from their comfy recliner and now can’t turn their head to the right? Toddlers have SO much energy. How does one write a donor report and teach algebra simultaneously? Yes, as a matter of fact, I did wake up approximately three minutes before my morning staff meeting. Can someone please tell me, are we working from home or living at work?

Boundaries have become blurred, or perhaps even blurrier.

Now, some of you may be old pros at this whole work-life balance while working from home. But for many of us, this is our rookie season.

So, here are 10 tips that can help us stay healthy, productive, and appropriately compartmentalized in this new normal:

  1. Establish a routine

During a time when so much is out of our control, having a little bit of stability in our day can be really helpful. And when we aren’t leaving home much, it’s even more important to create a sense of productivity through a purposed structure.

  1. Create workspace

Home used to be a clear sign that the workday should be over. Now, those lines are hard to see. They can be even harder to see for those of us who don’t live in large homes with “office” space to spare. When are we working? When are we relaxing? It can help to claim time and space in our house. Have a place that signals the brain to be in work mode. As much as possible, have specific hours in the day to be in work mode, too. This may not be 8-5, but it can still work.

  1. Shutdown ritual

In the same way that we want to signal our brains and bodies, it’s time to work, we want to signal that it’s time to stop. This could be something like setting an alarm, making tomorrow’s to-do list, or even just putting the computer out of sight. When boundaries are harder to find, we have to take initiative to protect our time and space!

  1. Eat, drink and be healthy

Eating lunch can be a great way to establish a routine and move into a different space during the day. And remember, mental health is not always separate from what we are putting in our bodies. Let’s show ourselves some love during the day with time for food and lots of water.

  1. Escape the screen

For me, working from home has meant significantly less movement. I’m always in front of my screen, and that’s not good. It helps to take a few breaks throughout the day, however small. Take some time to get outside for a walk, if possible. Another personal hack: blue light canceling glasses. They have helped me tremendously to eliminate screen-induced headaches.

  1. Set realistic goals

This practice can be part of setting our routine each day. Think ahead of time about what we want to accomplish so that we can make a plan to do so. It may take some time to figure out what we can do per day in this new normal, but it’s important to be realistic so we don’t get discouraged.

  1. Celebrate the victories

When we set realistic goals and meet them, acknowledge that! It could be physically marking it off our list, giving ourselves a reward, or just taking a quick moment to be aware of a job well done.

  1. Honor deliverables, not seat time

This goes for all of us, whether we’re managing or being managed. Life has gotten crazy, especially for households with kiddos in them. Let’s focus less on whether we’re in front of a screen 8-5 just for the sake of it, and let’s focus more on accomplishing our mission. It might be nontraditional, and that’s okay.

  1. Care for employees

Do some extra check-ins. How are they doing? What do they need to thrive and be productive in a different environment? Don’t let the separation destroy the communication.

  1. GRACE

I saved the best for last. This is not an easy time. All we can do is the best we can do. Let’s give ourselves and each other the grace that we all need.

All of these can take some time and look different for all of us. But one thing is true across the board: our value as people does not reside in our productivity. So, let’s be encouraged as we continue to lift up our communities and take care of ourselves, too.

Let’s do some good.


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