A few months after launching my outsourcing company, Benchmark Global Management Solutions, I closed its Makati office because our clients worked exclusively online.
Back in the day when I had the office, I would be up early and had time for breakfast with the family.
Now that business had gone 100% remote, I would wake up to an empty house with my wife at work and my son at school.
It took time adjusting to a routine that included preparing dinner at 4:00 pm, answering phone calls, and attending to everyone who rang the doorbell.
Fast-forward to 17 March 2020, and the concept of Work-from-Home was no longer an option.
It was a must.
The 5 Challenges Of A Remote Lifestyle
Many people want to become entrepreneurs because they want to be their own bosses, manage their time, and have a career that matches results with productivity.
Of course, we yearn to spend more time with the family.
Yes, all that and more are possible if you work from home. But the pandemic has thrown a curveball at the remote lifestyle and has presented 5 challenges that you will have to overcome.
1. Quarantine Restrictions
Unfortunately, we live in a country where the go-to solution of the government is to impose lockdowns.
Lockdowns impose restrictions on travel and the type of businesses that are allowed to operate.
For Pharmcle, we had to reschedule product demonstrations with prospective clients for the ZAPS line of pesticides. Product demonstrations are best conducted onsite than online.
Delays cost money in terms of sales and opportunities. It’s very frustrating for both parties.
Likewise, quarantine restrictions limit the types of services that you can hire. For example, if you have termite or cockroach infestation in your home, you can’t hire pest control services to solve the problem.
2. The Threat of Getting Infected
Even if the quarantine restrictions are lifted or eased, the threat of getting infected by COVID-19 gives very little motivation to go out of the house. Unless you absolutely have to be in public, staying indoors remains a safer option.
Getting vaccinated with Sinovac is not reassuring as its efficacy rate is only 50.4%. Every time you go out, acquiring COVID-19 becomes a coin toss unless you bring the odds up to your favor by wearing a face mask, a face shield, and carrying Rely+On Virkon inside a portable atomizer.
3. Limitations of Technological Framework
It’s great that Big Tech has given us ZOOM, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Asana, Basecamp, and Google Drive to make close collaboration easier and more convenient for remote businesses.
On the flip side, the Philippines’ technological framework leaves very little to be desired. Latency issues in the Philippines have managed to offset the benefits of digital technology.
How many times have you experienced Internet downtime, increased buffering, and dropped video conferences?
As more people work and study online, the Internet Information Highway is getting more crowded and heavy with traffic.
4. More Distractions
At home, I have to share my office with my son who has online schooling. As someone whose job is in the Creative Process, I need peace and quiet to work effectively.
That can be next to impossible when my son has graded recitation, group work, or if he has to make a presentation.
Other work-from-home distractions include:
- Answering the doorbell.
- Answering the phone.
- Coping with the incessant barking of the neighbors’ dogs.
It’s great to have more time with family. However, as the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt”.
As you spend more time with family, everyone begins to notice characteristics about each other that they don’t like. Conflicts arise and tensions increase in the household.
In a study that was published by Leechiu Property Consultants after the first lockdown of 2020, it was disclosed that household conflicts created stressful situations that affected work from home productivity.
5. Dealing with Emotional Distress
When you have no choice but to stay home, your castle starts feeling more like a prison because, in a sense, your freedom has been curtailed.
Before the lockdowns, I could leave the house and head off to a commercial gym for a workout. Then, have dinner with the family while waiting for traffic to ease up.
Weekends were set aside to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster at Commerce Center at Alabang, Muntinlupa, or to try a new restaurant.
Online masses are great – but nothing beats being inside a church on a Sunday. The last face-to-face family reunion seemed ages ago.
Under these conditions, what used to distinguish work and life no longer exists. There’s no more demarcation line between work and life. The idea of “Work to Live; Not Live to Work” has become novel.
Thus, more Filipinos are becoming more emotionally distressed. Remote workers are getting burned out.
How To Find Work-Life Balance In The New Normal
With the ongoing uncertainty regarding the quality and availability of vaccines and the continued mutation of COVID-19 into stronger variants, we have to assume that the remote lifestyle will remain the norm in the age of the New Normal.
But it doesn’t have to be bad.
You don’t have to give in to emotional distress.
You can still be productive and achieve success in your personal or professional endeavors.
Here are 5 simple tips on how to find work-life balance in the New Normal.
1. Use Focus Blocks
According to the Ultradian Rhythm, the mind can only maintain 100% focus for 90 to 120 minutes. Trying to maintain focus above 120 minutes will lead to diminished quality of work.
The next step is to recharge so you can attend to your next task with 100% mental capacity. You only need 30 minutes to recharge and get your brain back to full strength.
Using focus blocks will help you be more productive in less time. Here’s how you use them.
- Pick 3 tasks that you need to be accomplished.
- Set aside 90 minutes for each task. During this time, there must be no distractions and you must maintain 100% focus throughout the 90 minutes.
- After 90 minutes – finish or not – take 30 minutes to recharge. You can eat, take a nap, exercise, hang out with your family or do anything that relaxes you.
- Work on Task #2 for the next 90 minutes.
By using focus blocks, you’ll need only 6 hours per day to accomplish 3 tasks. You’ll have more time to attend to matters that don’t involve work.
2. Schedule Family Hour and Family Day
The work-from-home conundrum is that more people get to spend time with their family – but they actually don’t.
Because they see each other every day, families take family time for granted. Each person will look for their own space inside the house, eat at their convenience, and go about their daily routines as if they were living with strangers.
I’ve had conversations with people who feel the conditions of the New Normal have created a great divide in their families.
I encourage everyone to schedule a family hour or set aside a day for the family. What activities can you do as a family while staying at home?
- Choose a movie to watch on Netflix. Make it an event with popcorn, sodas, and the usual movie-time treats.
- Prepare dinner together; no gadgets on the table.
- Set one day during the week to visit a favorite destination in the city.
- Exercise together or play team sports in the outdoors such as soccer, basketball, or volleyball.
- Hang out! Plan a backyard BBQ or a picnic and just chill in the outdoors.
Having a family day also alleviates tension in the household. If you have a problem with your spouse or a sibling, you can privately talk about the issues that are bothering you over coffee.
3. Take a Vacation
If there are no travel restrictions, by all means, take a vacation!
You don’t have to go to another country to have a vacation. Go local. Visit a nearby beach resort or go up to Baguio City. An open-air environment poses fewer risks to getting sick from COVID-19.
- Call up the resort and inquire about requirements for testing.
- Bring your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – P29 Copper Mask. Face Shield, at least 1 sachet of 5gms Rely+On Virkon, a 500ml spray bottle, and an 80ml atomizer.
- Bring supplements to give your immune system a boost – Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Melatonin.
4. Stop Feeling Guilty
When the pandemic brought the world to shut down, my outsourcing company got swamped with work. While certainly a blessing, the workload was overwhelming.
For nearly 3 months, we worked 7 days a week. The volume of work was high and the deadlines were tight. Although we utilized focus blocks, the workload became overwhelming for everyone.
We pushed hard because we viewed these as opportunities and wanted to take maximum advantage. I felt guilty about stopping and taking a break because I didn’t want to take these blessings for granted.
As people got more stressed, the quality of work suffered. I met with each client and asked them to relax the deadlines to give everyone time to reset. Similarly, I had to reset my way of thinking.
I had to stop feeling guilty about taking a step back from work. I had to tell myself that I wasn’t stepping back because I was lazy. I had to do it for the benefit of my team and my clients.
If you feel like taking a break – go ahead! The intent is sincere and the purpose is honorable. Don’t feel guilty because the decision to step back benefits everyone in the value chain.
5. Shut Off and Disconnect
The last one could be the most difficult for many of you.
Shut off and disconnect from the Internet.
Before the Internet, we found ways to stay busy:
- Played sports or exercise.
- Took up a hobby such as guitar, collecting comic books, or cooking.
- Read books.
- Drew and wrote comic books.
- Explore a new city.
- Try a new restaurant.
As long as you don’t violate quarantine restrictions, you can still do these activities and more without having to connect to the Internet.
- Have coffee with 3-4 friends.
- Get a haircut.
- Schedule a few hours at a spa.
- Chill at the park.
- Walk or bike around the neighborhood or the city.
- Visit Church.
The world may have stopped – but life hasn’t. It will if you focus on existing, not living.
The remote lifestyle and work-from-home arrangements might well be the norm over the next few years. The good news is that as humans, we have the ability to adapt and thrive in any environment.
In the end, achieving a work-life balance will come down to your mindset.
Would you rather surrender to the difficulties of the New Normal – or would you prefer to accept them, explore the opportunities, and realize that this is just The Normal?
Your life is what you make of it. So make the most out of it.
But stay safe!
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