Work-life balance amid Covid-19 crisis: What’s that, quip millennials
Absence of fixed working hours, WFH led burnout and depleting mental health has forced many to quit jobs or switch fields, paying no heed to perks or pay cheques.
It has been over a year since the work-from-home setup came into being. While initially, working all day in our jammies seemed rosy, many began to gradually experience a burnout. Mounting work pressure aside, not being able to meet colleagues, grab a bite or a hot cuppa with them and share a laugh or two by the water cooler, also began taking a toll on professionals. And to top it all, the absence of fixed working hours has led to poor or no work-life balance for most people.
Bogged down by unrealistic expectations
“After toiling endlessly, it feels the worst when bosses say you’re not doing enough,” rues Ghaziabad resident Sadhna Yadav, a social media manager who was forced to switch jobs amid the pandemic, unable to cope with ‘mounting workload and unrealistic expectations’. “My employers felt we were not giving it our 100%, just because we were at home. I had joined that company thinking it would give me better opportunities and exposure, but the unnecessary pressure to work continuously without taking breaks, really got to me,” adds Yadav, who is now with a startup. She confesses she had to let go of some perks offered by her previous organisation, but now finally has some time to herself.
A similar situation was faced by Navdeep Minhas. A former media professional, this Delhiite went through an emotional burnout in the last four months, so much so that he quit his high-paying job to join his family garment business. “I had entered the field out of passion, but pressure drove me out. I understand every job has its own requirements, and I had no problem in putting in some extra hours. But, it reached a stage where I’d often end up skipping meals and had no time for anything else but work. Yes, I was paid a good amount of money, but soon realised it wasn’t worth compromising on my health,” he shares.
And for Gurugram-based Vinit Negi, the main issue was lack of empathy of employers towards their staff. “At a time when a loved one was battling Covid-19 in the hospital, not only was I asked to carry on with work, nobody bothered to check in on me and say two words of comfort. This is when I realised there’s no point working this way,” says Negi, who formerly handled social media for an MNC, and has now launched his own YouTube channel, on which he analyses sporting events.
“A lot of people say working from home is so convenient, but the last one year has been nothing but inconvenient. Long working hours and extra workload in the name of being productive has taken a serious toll on my mental health. You are required to be available on WhatsApp 24x7 in the name of work, and this has blurred the boundaries between personal and professional life. We talk so much about prioritising mental health, but the ground reality is quite grim,” admits Ghaziabad resident Ravindra Kumar, a corporate professional.
Delhi-based chartered accountant, Bhavesh Dua, feels productivity has taken a hit. “Permanently working from home has led to decreased productivity on many occasions. Mental torcher leading to frustration is also piling up due to the lockdown. To cater to this, keep the atmosphere at work light and encourage recreational activities among employees,” he recommends.
Work, work, work, repeat
For those tackling office as well as household chores, things have become increasingly difficult. “I wake up, I work, I procrastinate, and it is already a new day. The time I have after work is spent in doing the dishes and dusting. There is no physical exercise whatsoever,” rues Noida-based Devyani Srivastava, who is into content creation.
‘Stuck in a rut’
“This year just feels like a reminder that we are stuck in a rut,” says Delhiite Varsha Bannerjee, an IT professional. “Personally, the targets, work chaos and stress have taken a toll on me. I’ve been through a burnout, but never even got to take time off. Is this what work-life balance is supposed to be?” she asks.
While some companies are granting self-care leaves to their employees, working individuals feels this alone isn’t enough. “Even if companies do offer “self-care” leaves, what’s the point of having it if your work is harassing your mental health?” wonders Delhiite Ashima Roy, who works in the hospitality industry.
The way forward
Clinical psychologist Kamna Chhibber feels the onus of balancing professional and personal spheres is both on an individual as well as the organisation they’re working with. Doling out advice for those struggling to maintain a work-life balance, she adds, “Focus on having a start time and an end time and have conversations with your managers and teams to facilitate sticking to this schedule. Understand that it is ok to say no to a task, if it becomes a routine for it to emerge after working hours. Cultivate time for yourself to engage in relaxing activities; try to create a slightly flexible but fairly planned schedule, so that you can incorporate the things you’d like to do on a given day. Most importantly, learn to switch off your gadgets and cut off from electronic media.”
Author tweets @srinidhi_gk