When all work is
“home” work.

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“The five most-cited emotions among teachers in April 2020 were anxiety, fear, worry, sadness, and overwhelm.”

EdSurge study

Whether you teach or learn from home, all work has become “homework.” Just as remote employees have struggled with burnout and drawing boundaries around the workday, educators have faced similar challenges in distance and hybrid learning environments. In an EdSurge study, the five most-cited emotions among teachers in April 2020 were anxiety, fear, worry, sadness, and overwhelm.

Many educators also hold the dual role of worker and parent, with parents more involved than ever in educating their children. A study by Brown University found that 40 percent of teachers said that caretaking responsibilities for children or dependent adults made it difficult to do their jobs in the spring of 2020, and 16 percent said they were unable to balance work with home responsibilities. 

Why everyone (especially educators) needs time to unplug.

According to the World Economic Forum, many employees report that their top challenge with remote work has been unplugging from work. The same can be said for teachers who find themselves responding to parent and administrator emails, developing lesson plans, and learning how to use new technology at all hours of the day and on the weekends.
Here are tips from teachers who’ve managed to achieve some balance.
  • Develop routines that mark the beginning and end of the school day. It’s helpful to have morning and evening routines to bring structure to your day. Repeating the practice creates a ritual that signals the start and end of your school day and makes it easier to transition.
  • Limit email correspondence to a designated time. Some teachers have found it helpful to remove email alerts and even email applications from their phones to create a boundary around non-work time. Many have also found it beneficial to dedicate time each day for email correspondence with students, parents and administrators and limit correspondence to this time block. Making the times known to others can help set expectations.
  • Establish blocks of time to stay focused. Some teachers use timers to break up their school day into blocks of focus time, with short breaks in between. This helps combat distractions while also enforcing screen breaks throughout the day. Staying productive during the day makes it easier to step away at night and on weekends. 
  • Get up and move. Speaking of screen-free breaks, moving away from screens (whether teaching-related, social media, or the news) can be refreshing. Teachers, like other remote workers, are scheduling walks outside or playtime with a pet. Some are teaming up through apps to challenge each other to reach walking or activity goals. Many are using free online resources that offer quick indoor exercises. For example, guides developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of California, Berkeley, offer dozens of suggestions for simple activities.
  • Find something you love. Some educators note that it helps to have favorite activities outside of work, so you don’t slip from the school day into hours of gazing at Netflix. 

How administrators can empower a better work/life balance.

Some are finding creative approaches using existing school and district resources. An assistant principal at Arcadia High School, outside of Los Angeles, created a dedicated helpline for staff drawing on the school's Educationally Related Intensive Counseling Services (ERICS) psychologist and marriage and family therapist. She created drop-in wellness education sessions based on leading topics requested in a teacher survey.

Finally, the school has created social activities such as a bi-weekly online social hour with only one rule: no work talk. These and other creative approaches help teachers differentiate between school time and personal time.

The good news for administrators and teachers: all of these practices will continue to boost wellness and work-life balance even when educators resume work in the classroom. Check out Tools for educators: Meeting the challenge of distance learning to find other tips and resources. 

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