What does balance look like for you? This is a question many of us are struggling to answer. These past three years have turned our world upside down. Early 2020 saw us wrestling to wrap our arms around what the pandemic meant for us, for our family, for our work, and for our community. We rode the rapids as our companies grappled with how to continue operating amidst the uncertainties…in-person, remote, hybrid; mask mandates, COVID testing mandates. We gained a greater appreciation for our teachers as we attempted to augment our kids’ education. We felt the ache of not being able to be with loved ones who needed medical care, or not attending rites of passage such as weddings, graduations, or proms. We endured the isolation of social distancing and quarantine.

Recently in the US, the COVID-19 pandemic has been declared to be over. Companies are beginning to wrestle with what the new norms for the workplace will be. And, many of us find ourselves contemplating how we’ll use what we’ve learned about ourselves, our priorities, to shape what balance means to us going forward. I’ll offer my own experience as an example.

As I wrap up my tenure as the Director of the Center for Collaborative Leadership and turn my full attention to my coaching practice, I am coming to terms with the idea that for the first time since I was 13 years old, my schedule will be my own. I will not have an organization’s standard hours to conform to.

In order for the Center to post the position for a new Director, I had to move into a part-time role. Honestly, I think this has been a wonderful way for me to begin experimenting with what I want my schedule to look like. I’ve started by reserving Fridays as meeting-free days.

As someone who spent decades getting up at 4:30 am, working 60–70 hours per week, and constantly tethered to my phone, contemplating what my days will look like when my schedule is my own has been an interesting exercise. To be honest, it has taken me several weeks to get to the place where I am no longer checking email constantly throughout the day (…and evening…and weekend), and to be able to leave my home office for any length of time during “regular business hours.” I’ve begun, as I noted at the beginning of this blog, to work out again, and am focusing on getting 7 hours of sleep.

Today, for the first time, I was able to walk away from my computer during the work day without feeling anxious. This morning, I got up, worked out, and got a bit of work done. I then met a friend for a leisurely breakfast followed by a walk with her on the beach. After that, I put in a couple of more hours of work before running some errands with my husband. I even managed to take a walk with my son! And now, after dinner, I’m attending to a few last items on my “to-do” list.

You know what? Today was fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed myself AND I got everything done that needed to be done.

As we step into this post-pandemic world, I think one of the things we are seeing is that employees are no longer willing to blindly conform to organizational mandates — such as where or when to work. These rules that we had assumed were impermeable are being completely rewritten as employees begin to advocate for themselves, for the ways in which work will work for them. We’re also learning that as we take better care of ourselves we perform better at work. Win-win.

How are you rethinking what balance means for you?