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Compassion Counts For A Work-Life Balance


As in many workplaces post-Covid, my marketing team transitioned from an office environment to a work from home model. Change is challenging for most individuals, even when that change is welcome, and it was obvious everyone was struggling.

 

As my team adjusted to this new workplace dynamic, both performance and morale were waning. Their most articulated complaint was losing a sense of their work-life balance. Fortunately, I was able to find an agency that specialized in this area, and as a result, the team participated in a workshop focused on improving the wellbeing of remote and hybrid teams.

 

When we think about work-life balance in the context of remote work, we often pair it with self-care. I think that is part of the story, but not the entire story. Consider author and researcher Kirsten Neff’s definition of self-compassion as the driver, we soon see that self-care practices work in support.

 

Neff defines self-compassion as:

 

  1. Self-kindness: being kind to yourself in times of stress or failure vs. self judgement

  2. Common humanity: understanding you are part of a shared human experience. where failure and disappointment are part of life vs. personal and limited to one person

  3. Mindfulness: being open and non-judgmental of stress and disappointment vs. over-identification as it being a part of yourself

 

One of the learnings from our workshop is an exercise that now begins our weekly meeting, and it acts like an icebreaker to kick off a meeting by stimulating discussion. It is simple and, when each team member shares their personal experience, they are practicing self-compassion.

 

At the beginning of each team meeting, everyone is invited to voluntarily share:

  • Something you are proud/happy about

  • A self-care routine you practiced this week

  • Something you want the team’s support on

 

Leading with empathy translates into managing a person, not an employee. Like myself, each team member is a complex human complete with a life separate from work, where they are often a partner, a parent, an athlete, a caregiver, a student and more.

 

It is impossible to isolate individual experiences and how they each impact their professional life. By focusing on self-compassion in a structured and inviting way, each person can practice and share to begin to build a lifelong habit that enables stability and a sense of work-life balance.

 

These practices are shared by the team, which support all three areas of self-compassion and form their support system away from the office:

 

Journaling: Keep a daily journal to explore ideas, practice curiosity and find answers within yourself, which may create more self-kindness. It can also be a place to air feelings and accept responsibility in reflection, understanding that we all have challenges, as part of the human condition. Journaling can also be where you fall into a flow state, enjoying the process of being and not worrying about an outcome.

 

Device Free Time: Get outside, take walks and create a simple walking meditation as you take in nature around you. The team expressed that stepping away from their screens and letting their minds wander created a sense of freedom and empowering energy. The physical and mental benefits of being outside without distractions are well documented by experts and authors alike.

 

Breath Breaks: Take a few minutes during the day to focus on breathing and center your thoughts. Some team members use apps or their smart watch to take a few minutes to breathe or reflect and check in with themselves. According to author Judson A. Brewster in his book, “Unwinding Anxiety,” simple mindful awareness activities like this, practiced throughout the day, can create long lasting habits of being fully present.

 

Setting Boundaries: This, perhaps, is one of the most underrated and valuable tools to support our self-compassion. Team members expressed frustration and guilt as meeting invites and chat messages began to control their day. This issue felt magnified as the team is spread across the country, working in different time zones, and they felt an obligation to immediately respond.

 

While we understand that the structure of not only a company, but society at large is set up for continual interruption, there are ways we can create boundaries and give individuals a sense of control over their time. The team uses digital calendars to set appointments for themselves, to block time to complete their own task or work on a project. Some use an email feature that allows them to define their working hours, which lets others know that messages sent outside those times will be addressed during their business day. Setting healthy boundaries is not selfish; it is a way to ensure you show up as productive, energized and ready to do your part.

 

I have shared some of the tools my team uses to enable work-life balance, which develops and supports self-compassion, and I would love to hear more from the OWA blog readers. I always learn from our community and appreciate ideas that can help us all to show up fully present, both personally and professionally. What practices or tips can you share? Leave your comment below!


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Thank you for sharing! Our team blocks out 1-5 every Monday as "Team Time." This allows us time to work on projects uninterrupted without meetings. It's also the time we are expected to collaborate with our teammates and be available for questions. It helps set us up for the week.

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So many reasons to love this idea:

-Team time they can count on, not fight for

-Start week with those they likely depend on most for support

-Freedom to let mind explore and make unlikely connections

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