IT’S OK TO BE OK!
How many times have you told your child that it’s OK to be OK? Not great, not good, but passable. Not that often, I bet. If one extreme of parenting is automatic validation of the participant trophies and everyone’s-a-winner mentality then the other is conditional approval, the idea that nothing is worth doing unless you can be the best at it.
One of my favourite books is one that I bought just after we had our first child. In “The OK Book” there is a valuable message of tolerance and experimentation. In this clever and visual play on words, OK is turned sideways, upside down, and right side up to show that being OK can really be quite great. It truly encourages and empowers you and your children to discover your own individual strengths and personalities. OK is an OK place to be. And being OK just may lead to the discovery of what makes one great. The author is not telling us or our kids to accept a middling existence, she’s just reminding us of what often gets lost amid our obsession with success: the value of failure and the joy in simply trying something without the pressure of perfection. Being OK is not only necessary, it can be great.
It’s fair to say we’ve never experienced a time like this and let’s be clear right now, we’re not “working from home” we are being forced to stay at home and trying to continue to work! This is very different to choosing to work remotely. Many of us have been sent home without the essential planning for how to work well from home, businesses have rapidly deployed new technology, commentators are writing guides to “being productive working from home”, all against a backdrop of high anxiety and stress and the unknown. Many of us may also be taking on homeschooling duties, and naturally we are all worried about many things, such as our income, food and health. It’s a lot.
There are lots of messages, advice, opinions and predictions around. Some of it’s pretty drastic, and not all of it agrees and the uncertainty, in itself, can feel very stressful. This isn’t the time to add to your pressures. This is a time when things are moving and changing fast so remember it’s OK to be OK.
Give Yourself A Break
We are being bombarded with messages, articles, content, advice and more on what we should and shouldn’t be doing. 100 ways to stay productive working from home. 99 tips for juggling homeschooling and work. Don’t work in your PJs. Put a schedule in place. Do this. Do that. Right now, all you need to do is look after yourself. We are likely to be working in this way for a few more months, and we didn’t have to get it right, right away. Don’t expect to be 100% productive. You’ve never been 100% productive when you weren’t working from home and you won’t be now. There’s so much going on. It’s OK to not have a handle on everything.
Social Media Distancing!
There’s so much going on, that a constant stream of updates, rumours and commentary can be overwhelming. Consider where you’re reading your sources of news, and how often you’re reading them. Ask people to tone down the gossip if you’re finding it too much, or mute the whatsapp groups if the notifications get too much. Don’t isolate yourself from communications and information, but carefully consider how much and how often you’re dipping into social media.
Eat, Drink, Exercise and Sleep
Physical health and mental health are absolutely intertwined so keeping on top of the absolute basics helps (eat well – drink lots of fluids (ideally not too much coffee or alcohol and lots of water) – exercise daily – sleep (many of us will find that our “normal” sleep patterns have become disrupted, so try and focus on regularity of sleep, the same time going to bed, the same time getting up.
Now you’re at home, the boundaries between work and not-work, are really hard to manage. Although many of us would moan about it our daily commute which was the mental switch between the two states has been taken away so putting in some visceral, emotional and behavioural boundaries really help to allow you to switch off.
Set a working day: It can be useful to keep to your normal routine, for example starting at 9am and finishing at 5pm, and not touching your email out of hours. Take a commute: even if you’re not allowed to leave the house, find an activity which is your ‘journey to/from work’. It might be writing a todo list, listening to a podcast or reading a book to set aside time to switch between states.
Take breaks: schedule in times to step away from work, and have a screen break, stand-up, walk around, shake your legs, call a friend or make a drink.
Actually Do Some Work!
Yes, we get it you zoom! Just because we’re all working remotely does not mean we need to be constantly communicating and chatting and running conference calls and status updates. There’s a risk that we’re all feeling like we need to over-communicate and see each other all of the time, slack is open constantly, email traffic has increased tenfold, there are calls, texts, voice messages, video chats and google docs a plenty. You’re allowed to switch it all off and actually get down to doing some work. If it means blocking out time in a schedule where you’re focusing, or telling people you’re going to be offline for a while that’s fine. You’re being paid to do a job, not being paid to tell people what you’re doing!
Leaders: let your people breathe and trust them to do the work. Don’t swap presenteeism for overcommunication. Many of us are juggling way more than ever before, and possibly a whole load of things you don’t know behind the laptop.
For The Teacher-Parents
We know that right now, juggling homeschooling and work is, well, let’s admit it, pretty much impossible. Some things have to give. Talk to your boss, explain your home situation, and discuss a way which allows you to balance time with family, and time with work. Perhaps this is reduced hours, or a flexible working pattern, or simply just respecting that you cannot work all day. Don’t aim for superparent give yourself a break, and be kind to yourself. You’re already doing an amazing job under very hard circumstances.
Build New Behaviours
You’re in control of your work environment now which means you’ll need to think carefully about your workplace and your behaviours. Not only where you work, but how you work and how you engage with work. Lots of the normal ‘routines’ and external nudges on how you behave will no longer be present, so you need to put routines back in place. But don’t just think about productive working, try and focus on working well. This means being mentally and physically fit, supported, connected, motivated, developed and productive.
This Is Not Forever
Whilst challenging, remember this is not forever. Whilst it isn’t clear yet when we’ll be able to return to work, reminding yourself that this is temporary is really important. We’ve already started to see some positivity in the market and continue to have conversations with our clients about growth and recruitment for the year ahead. But try and make a conscious choice to appreciate the simple things and reward yourself more and remember not everything is cancelled.
So remember you don’t have to build the next unicorn and maximise the potential of every day. Some days are just about getting through. But not to brag, I haven’t been late for anything in weeks!