Life is different now that we have to navigate our way from our beds, through kid traffic, to the kettle and fridge enroute to the desk we have set up for ourselves to work from – oh yes, and back to the fridge a few times, and more coffee, before we settle in front of computer, play a quick game of online Sudoku (or seven), catch up on Facebook and the new pandemic jokes flying around, and finally down to whatever work we have to do!
That’s one scenario. Another I have come across is the “square eye model” which may or may not start off the same way but ends with us not moving from our screens – except for a body break (when we remember) and a quick bite (that fridge again!) – for anywhere between twelve and eighteen hours.
Or maybe you are somewhere in between.
Whichever modus operandi you have chosen, or fallen into, the truth is that work life has changed drastically and I thought that today we might discuss four new trends I have noticed through the eyes of my clients over the last two months, and my thoughts about how we should respond.
- From office to home: Okay, so this is an obvious one! However, it is the foundation of virtually all the changes we are currently experiencing and so we need to ask what the implications for us are. The answer to this lies in the fact that we need to learn or instill new behaviours, habits and skills – and perhaps a new attitude or two – as we acquire a new working lifestyle. Reflect for a moment on how your attitude, behaviours, habits and / or skills need to change to enable you to be more fully productive when you are able to get past the fridge and the kettle.
- From ritual to “what shall I do now?”: I bet that each day you probably become aware of some ritual or routine you had in the office, or on the way to or from the office, that you hadn’t realized you might miss – getting some early morning exercise in, listening to your favourite music or podcast as you work your way through the traffic, stopping in at your favourite coffee ship downstairs on the way up from the car park, the daily banter as you pass a colleague’s office, and so on. Now that these things are not there, it’s like there is a vacuum – and the question is how we manage these vacuums because when we don’t proactively manage vacuums, they tend to suck other stuff back in, like the fridge, coffee, Facebook and other new, and not so new, bad habits. So, this is a time to ask ourselves what are we doing to take care of ourselves? Whether you were a health nut in your former life as an office worker or a little on the lazy side, either way you know what you should do right now to take care of yourself – and if you have by any chance forgotten, focus on these three areas: sleep, nutrition and exercise. A bit of old meditation would also do wonders!
- From next door (literally) to next suburb (not so literally): Your colleagues used to be so close (even though you may not have experienced it as such) and now you have no one to discuss things with – apart from the dog lying by the heater. The kids are busy with home schooling, and your wife or husband have their work to do – and, anyway, it’s not the chinwag you are after but a belly deep discussion about some of the issues and challenges you are experiencing in the project you are currently working on. You think of calling a colleague, but you have done that a few times in the last couple of weeks and, it may be your imagination, but he or she seems increasingly distracted from what you want to talk about, probably because they are intensely focused on what they working on. Better not interrupt them again – after all, you know how you hate that! So, what to do about it? Well, why not send them (and perhaps a few others) an email and suggest that if they are experiencing the same thing, you have a daily virtual coffee together for, say, fifteen minutes where you can discuss serious stuff you want to each bounce off each other or, if none of that bubbles up, just chat. Of course, you are likely to have several Zoom or other online meetings each day, but that’s not the same thing, is it! Keep the connection going before you become a hermit.
- From transitions to square eyes: When we worked at the office there were several transitions we experienced throughout the day – walking from the aforementioned car park to the aforementioned coffee shop, up the escalator to the lift, to your office; leaving your office to attend a meeting, and so on. Even if you were really busy, which I have no doubt you were, these transitions created breaks that you may not be getting at the moment – except to the fridge and aforementioned kettle, and back to your computer. A lot of my clients are currently exhausted even though they may be working hard, but no harder than they were in the office. They may be working longer hours or shorter but they are spending more time in front of their computer screen; and when they are not, they are studying their cell phone, and eventually perhaps the TV screen as well. We need to transition away from our screens frequently throughout the day. Try this: set your alarm for every one and a half hours and when it goes off get in the habit of taking ten minutes off from your screen, fridge and kettle. For example, if you happen to have a house and are able to go out into the garden do so, and just get attuned to nature or breathe in the air. If you are not lucky enough to have that luxury, look out of an open window and breathe deeply for two minutes; do a couple of squats or sit ups or yoga or mindfulness exercises, anything to break the spell of your screens.
There are several other trends that are emerging at this time but I thought these might be the most important ones that us, as individuals, need to be not only cognizant of but do something about. Things have changed around us and whether this is the new normal or there is a new normal or no normal coming, we have to respond differently to the environment around us. It is a great opportunity to become more self-aware and to grow and mature, if only we allow ourselves to do so. Start by following the “to-do’s” I have mentioned or the things you know will work for you if only you would try.
For those of you that are struggling with the challenges of today, I have designed a Coaching Carepackage at minimal cost that will enable you to develop the ‘muscles’ and habits necessary to not only deal with those challenges but to come out the other side enriched and more fully you. If you are interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will arrange to have a (free, no obligation) chat to see if the package is a fit for you.
Until next week, please stay well and safe!