Blurred Boundaries: Work-Life Balance in the Time of COVID19

Healthy Work Campaign
10 min readMay 22, 2020

by Marnie Dobson Zimmerman, Ph.D. & Pouran Faghri M.D.*

The dog barks. My husband yells at her to be quiet as he continues his Zoom call on mute. The kids can be heard arguing from the other side of our small house, playing video games on their iPads after completing their distance learning work in two hours between 7:30–9:30am. I pause my Zoom-recorded lecture and grind my teeth together. How will I possibly make it through the next several months, working like this? During this global pandemic, many of us now find ourselves working at home with insufficient physical or personal space, and limited boundaries between work and home.

Photo credit: Julia M Cameron (via Pexels)

Work-life balance — the dilemma of managing both work obligations and family and personal affairs — is taking on new meaning to millions of us working from home while observing the coronavirus social distancing policies. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 24% of American workers were working from home at least some of the time in 2017–2018. By some estimates, 56% of American workers are currently working from home as a result of the crisis. We are sharing office space (or the dining room table) with a spouse who is suddenly there all the time. Pets and children show up in the corner of the Zoom video while we are still trying to pass as professionals.

Before COVID-19 and the shutdown, most of us kissed our kids goodbye in the morning, dropped them off at daycare or school―and went out into the world of work. Sure, for many of us the pressures and stresses of work came home with us at the end of the day. We worked long hours, overtime shifts, or kept on working, answering emails, preparing presentations after the kids were in bed (or while they were watching TV). But now the private and public sphere of home and work has completely blurred into one and we confront managing work (if we have it), while acquiring new skills as amateur teachers.

More than ever, we recognize and appreciate the work of our teachers and daycare workers.

Work Stress at Home

With this new stay-at-home policy and work-from-home situation, work stress has new meaning. Nearly half of parents with children…