Carving out time for yourself
With no difference between work and home, Account Supervisor Kendall Stemper has found a way to make sure she still has time to unwind. Read how she spends her time outside of work hours
recharging through exercise.
How do you take control of your work/life balance in lockdown?
Because I’m in a role where I’m accountable to both internal teammates and external clients, I feel obligated to be available whenever people need me. If I’m just making dinner or watching TV outside regular work hours, I feel like I should respond. Exercise is the time I give myself to be unavailable for an hour. I’ve had to learn to leave my phone in a different room so I’m not tempted by incoming Teams alerts because it’s hard for me to be comfortable drawing that boundary. I always want to be a source of support for my team, but my colleagues respect that I need this time for myself.
How did you set those boundaries with your team?
I’m a big fan of sending “confirming receipt” notes so people have clear expectations of when the work is going to get done. As long as I let folks know I’m tracking, then I’m usually able to absolve myself from the guilt of waiting to tackle their request until I have the right time and headspace. This also saves me from feeling like I need to explain why I was offline. I don’t have kids, so I try to be conscious of my teammates who have things they’re more accountable for outside regular work hours, but I have to remind myself that it’s not invalid for me to also want to step away and do something for myself.
Do you feel like there is a discrepancy because you don’t have kids that people assume that you’re going to be more available?
I’m somebody who would rather work a longer day at the office and then close my laptop and be 100% done for the day when I walk in the door at home. Now with work from home, it can be hard when your team members are on different schedules. I might prefer to work straight until 8PM and then be done, versus noticing my team members signing off earlier to spend time with their families before getting back online around the time I want to shut down for the night. Both are totally legitimate, but it’s hard, right?
My instinct is to be amenable to their calendars because, really, what’s my excuse? I feel like I can’t say, “Sorry, not now—I’m on the Peloton.” But that’s on me to be strict about asking for just 60 uninterrupted minutes each evening, while still appeasing my coworkers’ and clients’ less flexible commitments outside business hours.
“Carving out time away from my computer was easier when I was quarantining in Colorado this summer. If I could, I’d end every workday hiking with the doggos through the Rockies!”
“Leading up to a charity golf tournament, my friends and I made time each week to visit the driving range for an hour. I doubt my game improved, but I love finding ways to be active and (safely) social at the same time.”
“Without access to the gym, I’ve had to get creative for strength training. My roommate and I somehow convinced each other it was a good idea to walk to the Christmas tree farm and carry it home over our heads—would not recommend.”
Do you feel like since work from home, there’s been the expectation for you to be more available?
Candidly, I do. I started at closerlook in June, so I’ve been virtual the whole time. At my previous agency (when we were still in the office), I was able to get all my work done, do a lap to make sure no one needed anything from me and then close my computer and be done for the day. And whether I was able to do that at 5PM or 10PM, I knew I didn’t have to think about work anymore once I was home. But now I feel like there’s more pressure to be available because what could you possibly be doing? So I do feel like I should have my Outlook alerts on while I’m eating dinner, which I did not beforehand. Or if somebody requests a meeting before 8AM or after 5:30PM, I don’t push back. It’s easy to think, “Well, I’ll be home either way, so I may as well be working.”
When do you take your 60 minutes for yourself?
My preference is to use my workout as time for decompressing, so it’s usually a better stress reliever if I don’t have to get back online afterward. I find the evenings are best because I can really sweat out the anxiety from the day.
Carving out time
Kendall’s tips for maintaining work/life balance
Always confirm receipt so your team knows you’re on it
Be transparent about needs and time away
Go for a walk during one-on-ones
Limit screen time first thing in the morning and before bed
What kind of activities are you doing in those 60 minutes?
It’s an ongoing evolution for me in terms of finding the right types of physical activity. I have chronic pain issues that affect how I’m able to work out, so I try to be open to trying new methods because if I’m not enjoying it, then I’m not going to do it. I’m not able to run anymore, but I’ve learned to love long walks instead. I don’t feel as limited when I’m finding ways to push myself with new hobbies like yoga and golf.
I also try to be kind to myself on days where my body is more tired or achy than usual, because there have been periods of my life when attempts at treating the chronic pain have left me immobile for as long as six months. It taught me to appreciate the physical and mental release that comes with exercise, which is even more encouragement for me to make that time every day.
When you’re walking or being active are you listening to podcasts or playlists?
I wish I could be someone who worked out to audiobooks, but I find I need to be distracted so it’s usually music. I have a hard time turning my brain off, and it helps to focus on the lyrics instead of drifting into, “Did I remember to send that recap?” If it’s been a relaxing day, I might be able to just sit with my thoughts, but I’d be lying if I said that happened on any kind of reliable cadence!
How do you avoid stressing out outside of work hours?
I try to avoid screen time 30 minutes before I go to bed to improve my quality of sleep, and same goes for first thing in the morning. So much easier said than done, but I find when I do open my phone to read the news or do a quick email check from bed, it’s easy to spiral and bookend my day on an anxious foot. It’s also important to me to think about every evening as a reset, however the day went, so I’m not carrying damaging energy with me. Again, easier said than done!
Has there been anything from WFH that you’ve found positive?
I do appreciate having more flexibility to take those 60 minutes away from work whenever each specific day allows. I used to be beholden to my gym’s schedule, so it was easy to skip a day of working out if I didn’t wrap up at the office in time to catch the last yoga class. Now I can roll my mat out in my living room at whichever odd minute I find myself available.
Do you have any tips on how people can start taking 60 minutes for themselves?
I feel like that’s so personal, but for me I think back to earlier this year when quarantine started and I made the goal of hitting 10,000 steps a day. To keep at it, I found myself walking outside during one-on-one calls or non-visual trainings, but realized I got so much more out of my time away from the computer when I didn’t multitask with work responsibilities.
I still like to arrange walking one-on-ones with my coworkers but don’t count that time toward the minutes I owe myself outside work each day. Sixty minutes ended up being the right balance for me of getting the release I need while still feeling realistic for a daily goal; 15 minutes might be plenty for someone else. I feel like it’s trial and error to discover what serves your unique physical and mental wellbeing, while also understanding that not everyone is only beholden to themselves at the end of the business day.
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