The 3 Cs of Work-Life Excellence

The 3 Cs of Work-Life Excellence

Part 2 of 3 in a series on work-life excellence at home during COVID-19

By Joanna Koh-Hoe | 6 April 2020

Stay home. This has raised many different responses, ranging from people seizing the opportunity to quickly do that one last meet-up or run that one last errand, to those who are trying to treat everyday the same and minimise disruptions to daily living, to those who have already begun their private lockdowns for their entire family and gone totally online. The world-wide-web has also provided interesting (and some, humourous) insights into how entire communities and whole nations respond to such a mandate.

I'd like to share a few perspectives I've learnt about staying home as a working professional on-the-go, gained through my 8.5 weeks (and counting...) of "forced stay-home leave", aka medical/hospitalisation leave. Hopefully this provides some tips for ensuring your stay-home period in 2 days' time becomes one that you treasure rather than one that terrorises!

In our work-life excellence training for individuals, we address the 3 C's for successful work-life (we use "satisfaction" so that we don't get hung up over whether it's a "balance" or "harmony" or "integration" or... since different people approach work-life differently): Choice, Control and Change. This is true even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Work-from-home as a necessary Choice

Yes, I know, COVID-19 has forced it upon us; we didn't get to choose! But as common wisdom goes - We may not be able to choose what happens in life, but we can choose how we respond to it.

I have to admit that I was miserable when subject to the confines of my home after my fall. Some days I'd ask my husband to take me along on the car-ride to pick our son from school, just so I could get out of the house. Despite doing close to nothing, I felt listless and tired - tired of standing on one leg, tired of sitting for too long, and tired from not being to sleep due to the pain and discomfort. I reminded myself of the many people who had overcome adversity and those with permanent disabilities who rose above their situation, which made me feel worse.

Finally, the turning point was a decision - a choicethat only I could make, that enough was enough. It was between making the best of the circumstances or wallowing in self-pity for days on end. I might have saved myself some trouble had I made that choice much earlier...

As a psychology major who used to conduct professional counselling, I believe it's absolutely necessary to address our feelings and manage our emotional state. We might need to grieve about the imminent loss of physical freedom, lament over cutting off our social activities, grumble about having to learn how to work digitally, express our angst that home and work are colliding against our better judgment... but given that there is no other choice, we could (ironically) choose to grab the bull by its horns and, as it's said in Management, "own the problem"!

We may not be able to choose what happens in life, but we can choose how we respond to it.

Work-from-home as a necessary Control

Once we've embraced the idea of "staying home" instead of fighting it, we might suddenly find that there are actually more things we can control than we thought. Instead of trying to find ways and means to get around the situation, we can spend our mental and emotional resources on how to get our family organised around the house for both work, personal and family matters.

How many of us have felt as if life was reeling out of control? Does the end of each week mark a relief from the past week's work or a dread of the week to come? Are you tired of constantly doing a juggling act or keeping the many plates you manage spinning? Have you been spent just running the regular drop-offs and pick-ups each day? Do you feel that you have been tirelessly working the work-wheel, perhaps at the expense of health, family and the things that really matter to you? Do your children feel similarly?

Now that most things outside of the home are cancelled, it is opportune time to simplify lifestyles, take stock of our priorities, and take back control over our work and our home. To pose the question I suggested here: What's really essential for you, and for your spouse/family? In the present circumstances, this could boil down simply to being with the ones we love and staying healthy. Everything else is either a bonus or a distraction.

Having been certified as a work-life consultant for over 10 years now, I have witnessed the apprehension over flexible work arrangements. FlexCareers co-founder Joel McInnes reflected on the current situaion: "What COVID-19 has done is that it's massively accelerated the adoption of flexibility albeit in an inflexible that everyone is now mandated to do it." The debate has now moved to whether it's more productive to work from home. For the individual employee and particularly the working parent, a period of staying home might be just what we need to evaluate our pace, priorities and purpose - so that we can regain some sense of control over our life!

Work-from-home as a necessary Change

This new norm would require us to change things up, starting with putting in place physical, mental and emotional structures that may not have existed before. It may even require a job redesign - both on the work and home fronts. On-ground and frontline personnel may find ourselves moved to more backend work. If you are a dual-income couple with kids, you would likely have to renegotiate who does what and when, so that you and your spouse can manage the shared household and parenting responsibilities amidst your respective work demands.

Now's the time to have that critical conversation with our spouse to work things out.

Far too often in my role as a Family Coach and Family Life Trainer-Educator, working parents would share the stresses of work as well as the demands of home, with an intuitive, acute recognition that the state of affairs at work correlates with the wellbeing of the family. What's interesting is that I've never come across anyone who's concluded that they needed more time for work, but almost all wish they'd more time for the family.

My husband wisely noted that COVID-19 is offering us a chance to hit the reset button on various aspects of life, all at once. If we've been feeling torn in many different directions with multiple demands, now's the time to have that critical conversation with our spouse to work things out. If we've been frustrated with where we're going with work, now's the time to review our strengths and fit, and discuss how we can contribute more effectively to the organisation's goals (in the new scheme of things). If work and home have been at odds with each other, we now have the time to invest in our relationships with our family to make things better.

Adapted from The Comfort Zone,, based on the Learning Zone Model

The above diagram has been circulating in my chat groups, which I think spells out how we can turn this trying period into a time of personal learning and even growth. To quote Dr Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Working from home will change us - let's make sure it's for the better.

Embrace the Choice. Take Control. Make the Change.

Working parents, we can do this! And we - ourselves, our organisations, and our families - will all come out of this better and stronger, to the satisfaction of everyone.

This was first published on Joanna's LinkedIn page.

© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.


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