Family and work-life during the corona pandemic: facing the challenges

by Max Supke, Ann-Katrin Job, Kurt Hahlweg, Wolfgang Schulz and Beate Muschalla, Technical University Brunswick

The corona pandemic is a constant stress factor, which confronts lots of people with work-life-problems (e.g., home-schooling, loss of a job, loss of income, finding a new balance between family and working life) and daily life changes (e.g., closed sports facilities, lockdown). In consequence, the corona pandemic may also affect family well-being, as it can be associated with strong emotions (e.g., anxiety, depression, anger) as well as economic and social burdens such as financial insecurity, short-time work, unemployment, existential fears, and the challenge of caring for (grand-)parents or children. The simultaneous management of family responsibilities and working life confronts many families with a lot of new challenges.

Families spend more time together

However, many couples and families also succeed in recognizing the positive “side effects” of lockdowns, short-time work, and home office in combination with closed sports facilities, schools, and kindergartens. In other words, they spend much more time together. Families try to make the best of it and spend as much “quality time” as possible with their partner or family. For many people, mutual support and togetherness become more tangible again, and partnership and family are experienced as an “emotional home”. Parents also report positive developments for their children. During the pandemic children and adolescents could spend more time with their parents and siblings, have more time on their hobbies, and can sleep or stay up longer. Their friendships would also become more intensive. They would spend more time thinking about the “really” important things in life, e.g., their school and professional future.

Working from home can be challenging

Due to the lockdown and many companies’ closure, working from home has become commonplace for many people. This spontaneous change provides new opportunities, but also risks. Especially within a family home, it is crucial to create a workplace where you can work preferably undisturbed where all necessary materials are available. Furthermore, it is recommended to develop a consistent routine to smooth transition from working time to spending time with your family. If possible, you should allow yourself some time off and include relaxation exercises in your daily routine. It is also essential to communicate your new needs to your family to let them know when it is best not to disturb you or when you need time alone. Especially if both parents have to work, this can be very challenging. However, especially in this case, it is crucial to talk to your partner and try to support each other to find a common solution to handle the new situation. Besides all the risks, you may also have a little more quality time to spend with your family, if you do not have to commute to work anymore.

The vital importance of family psychological well-being

During these difficult times, both younger and older family members experience increased worry or anger, making it even more important to communicate openly within your family. Parents should try to give their children a sense of security and hope during these times. The Child Mind Institute provides helpful advice for parenting. The website offers examples of how parents can reduce children’s fears and stress, improve children’s sleep behaviour, and talk with children about the coronavirus pandemic in an effective way. Also, there are tips for parents on how to deal with parental conflicts that may occur due to coronavirus restrictions and how to handle frustration and anger.

Last but not least, always keep your well-being in mind and make sure to take enough time for self-care!