Creating Work-Life Balance in a Virtual World

Oftentimes, when we think about balance in our lives, we picture it as something we can attain effortlessly if we only perform the right rituals. We are told that productivity is everything and that if we are lucky, we can “find” some semblance of balance while holding a downward dog in a Saturday morning yoga class. While this may work for some, many of us have come to realize we aren’t finding balance because it isn’t really something that can be found. Like anything else in life, we have to work actively to create balance in our lives. As business leaders, it is even more imperative that you not only create balance for yourself, but for your employees too. 

With the expansion of the virtual workplace over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, achieving balance has become significantly more challenging as the lines between work and life become blurrier. In fact, according to a recent report, the average “pandemic workday” is almost 50 minutes longer than before the pandemic. But these longer, virtual hours come at the detriment of a work/life balance. As a result, employees feel less energized, less productive, and more prone to burnout

So, why is the virtual workplace more exhausting?

Technology has made it incredibly easy for us to stay connected with our teams and clients, even if we are physically distanced. But with the rise of the Zoom world comes a new kind of exhaustion that people are referring to as ‘Zoom fatigue’. This form of fatigue is the result of countless hours spent on video calls and emails without many breaks throughout the day. According to Drs. Libby Sander and Oliver Baumann, experts in organizational psychology, there are 5 key reasons that make the Zoom world more exhausting than the real world:

  1. Employees miss out on a lot of non-verbal communication – Human beings are social creatures. When our teams are face-to-face, they rely heavily on both spoken and body language cues to guide their interactions. Being able to read people’s expressions, witness their emotions, and gauge their responses to us is something we miss out on during Zoom calls. 
  2. Employees feel anxious about their teams having a window into their personal lives – It’s a new and strange experience to invite our colleagues into our home lives through the lens of our webcams. For many, the anxiety of their reality being on display for others to judge – whether it’s kids crying in the background, a microwave beeping, dogs barking – is a significant source of stress. 
  3. The end of water-cooler conversations – Water cooler catch-ups weren’t just intended to fuel the office rumor mill. They were great opportunities to take a quick coffee break, socialize and bond with our teams, and reset our creative flows. Now, we have tightly scheduled Zoom calls, strictly when business warrants it.  
  4. Looking at our own face all day can be stressful – Zoom calls are akin to staring at yourself in a mirror all day. For many people, this means being hyper-aware of ourselves for hours on end, which can lead to increased levels of stress.
  5. The silence behind a screen and what it means – When the screen is silent for one moment too long, employees wonder if anyone is paying attention or if they can be heard at all. In person, a natural break in conversation can signal thoughtfulness. Over Zoom, it can cause confusion, awkwardness, and stress.

What can you, as a leader, do about it?

For the time-being, it seems like our virtual workplace is here to stay. But that doesn’t mean your Zoom fatigue has to. Fortunately, there are a few simple strategies you can use to create balance for yourself and your employees, even in our virtual world:

  • Avoid multitasking – Research shows that a slim minority of people can truly multitask. More often than not, the rest of us are simply switch-tasking, which not only takes up more brain capacity and exhausts us, but also cuts into our performance. As difficult as it can be to stay present, try to put your phone away while working, stop checking emails in the middle of Zoom calls, and minimize tabs that don’t pertain to your immediate actions. As you model this behavior, remind your teams to do the same.  
  • Take screen breaks – Replace water-cooler breaks with walks to the kitchen for a snack or trade the computer screen for people-watching through your window for a few minutes – anything to give your mind a break. During those longer days where the calls are back-to-back, cultivate a culture of communication where it’s okay for you and your employees to turn off their cameras for parts of the call. 
  • Switch to phone calls or email – Time is the greatest commodity. Whenever possible, turn that hour-long meeting into an email or connect offline. Chances are, if you are feeling drained by virtual work, your employees and colleagues are too, and they’ll be relieved by the switch. 
  • Make virtual social events optional – Remind your team that they are not alone in feeling exhausted from staring at their screens all day by making virtual events opt-in. This increased flexibility will allow employees to feel welcome, not obligated to join. In turn, you give others the autonomy to do what feels right to them and a heightened sense of balance.
  • Recognize that balance takes work and commit to it – Award-winning senior executive, Jackie Gaines says that it’s all about choices: the choice to consciously separate work and home, work smarter and not harder, to set boundaries for yourself. But before employees can feel comfortable making these choices, organizational leaders must embrace flexibility, model it themselves, and encourage their employees to create balance in their own work and home lives. 

These subtle changes in our daily lives might seem small enough. But put together, they can play a big role in helping organizational leaders and employees create balance for themselves and others, all while boosting engagement and productivity. Fortunately, you don’t have to make these changes alone. Our custom leadership coaching solutions can help you create the optimal work environment for you and your employees to lead happy and productive lives – both in and outside of work.

Subscribe to Our

Stay up to date with new releases, features, how-tos, leadership tips, and more. (Don’t worry, we won’t flood your inbox or share your address.)

We Develop The World's Most Impactful Leaders

Sounding Board offers virtual and scalable enterprise learning solutions that are flexible enough to adapt to rapidly changing work environments. Powered by behavioral science and core leadership capabilities, our proven coaching methodology drives measurable business impact.

Niall MacGearailt

SVP of Finance
Niall MacGearailt leads Sounding Board’s finance division as the SVP of Finance and Operations. Niall earned a solid track record of improving P&L and operational expense management for leading companies such as Whirlpool, Logitech, Avaya and most recently Soraa, where he prepared the business for acquisition by leading hi-tech lighting company, Ecosense. In his role, he is responsible for building and leading the finance & relevant operations functions for the company.

Ron Buell

VP of Engineering
Ron Buell is the VP of Engineering at Sounding Board and an accomplished software professional with extensive experience in leadership, software engineering, project management, and product management. Ron has led the development of highly scalable systems and applications across a variety of technologies for companies including OpenFeint (acquired by GREE), Rdio (acquired by Pandora), Lyris Technologies, and Lotus/IBM Software Group. In his role at Sounding Board, Buell is responsible for all engineering efforts in developing, deploying, and maintaining the enterprise software platform and team for the company.

Tommy Perkins


Tommy is at his best helping clients think through complex challenges in order to create a positive impact on their organizations. He thrives when interacting with others whether helping his team succeed or working with clients to build long-term partnerships. He has extensive experience consulting with organizations on driving their employee experience, guiding organizations through change, and working to ensure organizations are moving the needle when it comes to their results.

Most recently, Tommy was a Client Services Leader overseeing some of GP’s most prized accounts on a global level. His responsibilities included overall client growth strategy, retention, and satisfaction. He represented all of GP Strategies’ major business lines including leadership, coaching, and engagement, digital transformation, outsourced services, and technology implementation solutions.

Before GP Strategies, Tommy spent several years with TTEC Digital (formerly rogenSI) where he led the sales team,  eventually becoming the regional Learning & Performance practice leader for North America. While managing the P&L and sales team he also led the largest global relationship for the firm (Deloitte Globally). During his time at TTEC, he focused on delivering blended learning solutions that incorporate technology and hands-on training. Before TTEC Digital, he spent several years dedicated to strength-based leadership disrupting the business landscape regarding performance management and employee engagement with thought leader Marcus Buckingham at The Marcus Buckingham Company / TMBC (now ADP).

Tommy has had the privilege of working with some of the most well-known global brands in professional services, retail, technology, and healthcare including Deloitte, Facebook, Microsoft, Bank of America, Novartis, Gap Inc., lululemon, and Intel. Several projects he led for Deloitte were Global GNPS, New Partner Pivot, NextGen Partner Program Deloitte China, Present to Win, the RPM project on performance management, and Unconscious Bias.

Tommy holds a BS in Health Sciences from Texas A&M University, and an MBA from Universidad del CEMA.

Drive hiring, retention, engagement, and DEI initiatives with Sounding Board’s leadership coaching solution

Sounding Board is the first leadership development platform that combines technology to scale with world-class coaches – empowering companies to solve urgent people-problems and gain a long-term talent advantage.

Join our coaching team

Our expert coaches combine top notch coaching, business acumen and organizational savvy to truly become your leadership “Sounding Board”. Sounding Board coaches are all industry certified and strongly vetted going through a 3 step qualification process and receiving ongoing supervision and development.

Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & CCO Sounding Board, Inc.
Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.
Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.