Balancing work and family responsibilities during COVID-19

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A masked student sits on rock near Swan Lake between class. As many people continue to work remotely and take online classes, the struggle between work and family responsibilities has amplified the need to set boundaries and mobilize your support networks. To address this growing concern, various departments at UConn teamed up to host a discussion entitled “The Intersection Between Work and Family Responsibilities During COVID.” Attendees were asked to share the problems they have faced while adjusting to working remotely, and also to ask any questions they have about what the university is doing to offer support to faculty and students during these uncertain times. Photos by Avery Bikerman / The Daily Campus

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the dynamic between work and home life, blurring many of the boundaries between the two domains. As many people continue to work remotely and take online classes, the struggle between work and family responsibilities has amplified the need to set boundaries and mobilize your support networks. 

“For some of us the entire process we use to do our job has changed,” Vicki Fry, manager of employee engagement and wellness at the University of Connecticut, said.  

To address this growing concern, various departments at UConn teamed up to host a discussion entitled “The Intersection Between Work and Family Responsibilities During COVID.” Attendees were asked to share the problems they have faced while adjusting to working remotely, and also to ask any questions they have about what the university is doing to offer support to faculty and students during these uncertain times.  

“I feel like the longer this has gone on, the flexibility has lessened and not everyone’s home life has changed much since March,” Amber Guillemette, administrative coordinator at UConn Extension, said. 

Guillemette shared concerns that many people have commonly faced since work from home orders were issued regarding maternity leave and other types of leave, uncertain expectations upon returning from leave, how timelines have changed during work from home protocols and how there was more flexibility offered in March when work from home orders were just beginning. 

“I find much of my time is spent tracking and keeping up with the communication and managing my children, their care and our household,” Guillemette said. “And then there are actual job duties.”  

“I find much of my time is spent tracking and keeping up with the communication and managing my children, their care and our household…And then there are actual job duties.”  

Amber Guillemette, Administrative Coordinator at UConn Extension

The stress of working remotely and being quarantined to your home basically overnight has also been augmented by the racial tension in our country and the highly contested election taking place next week. These contexts have added additional stressors to many people’s daily lives.  

Toxic positivity has been regarded as a common problem that has made working from home seem like a bigger burden than it should be. This term refers to being overly optimistic about situations. Although positive thoughts are helpful during times of uncertainty, many meeting attendees agreed that they can invalidate their unease towards the pandemic and working from home.. Being aware that you are not alone in this struggle is crucial to creating a successful work-from-home environment. 

“Asking for help when you need it is so important,” Fry said.  

You will be surprised to know how many of your coworkers are facing similar difficulties with the current work situation, which is why communicating with your supervisor and other staff members is a great way to utilize your support networks. Going to others for guidance during tough times is a way to garner emotional support and understanding of your questions and concerns.  

Setting boundaries for your workday is another important way to ensure that your job does not overtake your life. Once the workday is done, turning off your computer and not checking emails will allow you to take a breath and enjoy some much-needed time away from the screen.  

Prioritizing self-care is another key strategy that will allow you to set aside time to cater toward your mental and physical health. Whether this is waking up early to go for a run, meditating or simply setting aside a few minutes to read or watch tv, it is crucial to maintain low levels of stress and anxiety. 

UConn has implemented many new practices and resources to ensure that students and staff are supported during this difficult time. Wellness events, such as Meditation Mondays, are now open for UConn students, faculty and staff. The UConn Center for Career Development has created Affinity Communities which allow faculty, staff, employers and alumni to interact with students while focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion.   

These are  just a few of the many resources offered to members of the UConn community. If you are struggling with working remotely and need extra help, remember to utilize your support networks and communities to help guide you through these times. 

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