Rob Cowling shares his thoughts on the 'new' ways of working
As my second week of homeworking draws to a close, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on this new way of working and share some tips and ideas which have certainly helped me keep some degree of structure and sanity, and which I hope will prove useful to you too.
If someone had of told me just a few weeks ago that I would be locked up indoors, have no physical contact with friends, family, colleagues and contacts I would have probably laughed in your face! However, that is now firmly the position most of us find ourselves in and worse so, we don’t even know how long this could last… weeks, months, it could even be next year before we get back to some sense of ‘normality’ whatever ‘normal’ may end up looking like!
As someone who thrives on social contact and being in the company of others to laugh, learn, develop and connect, just the thought of not being able to do that for the foreseeable is frustrating and depressing all at the same time.
However, on reflection, and particularly with so many businesses and people struggling right now, I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones. Lucky to have an employer who is agile at the best of time but has truly embraced this disruption head on, put its people first in every difficult decision it’s made and put processes and procedures in place to enable me and others to do my job just as comfortably from home as I can from the office. Lucky to have an amazing network around me who are available at the touch of a button to converse and laugh on matters that we all too often don’t have time to do in our normal fast-paced and privileged lives. Finally, lucky to have the opportunity to spend more quality time at home with my wife and dogs, enjoying the beautiful countryside we live in and something I take for granted all too often.
So, on that note, what things have I done and how has it helped me:
Routine and structure is vital
Just because you’re at home, resist the temptation to stay in bed and your PJs. It’s inevitable your professional and social life will intertwine, but try to keep as close to your daily routine as possible so you feel ready for the day and don’t interfere too much on what would normally be relaxation and family time.
Divide your house into work and social zones
What would normally be your safe / peaceful place (e.g. living room or kitchen), try not to turn them into a permanent office desk or boardroom! Easier said than done I appreciate! Jen hasn’t divorced me yet so that’s a start I suppose!
Pick up the phone
Whereas you might normally converse over email or text, pick up the phone instead. Isolation is lonely, and if not addressed can have a serious impact on your mental health and wellbeing - check out the guys at Champion Health for more. If like me, you’re used to breaking away from your desk on a regular basis to chat, try and keep to some sense of that and use your phone instead. It can be really uplifting just to hear someone’s voice.
There's no substitute for physical face-to-face contact, but given where we are try and replace that by making the most of platforms like Skype, FaceTime, BlueJeans, Zoom, WhatsApp video etc. I try to work at least one video call into my diary everyday just to see and feel the facial expressions and personality of my amazing colleagues and friends. It can be a real pick me up and a welcome break from the trying times we find ourselves in.
This links into point one around routine and structure. Working at home can easily make you feel like you should be online and working all hours. Don’t! Allow time for your usual fresh air breaks whether that be first thing, mid-morning, over lunch or in the evening. Take advantage of the one piece of physical outdoor activity we're allowed and get out for a walk, run or whatever you enjoy most. Not being at the gym is killing me, but the outdoor running and HIT sessions are certainly helping me release those endorphins and avoid the mid-afternoon slump! As well as keeping the weight off, thank god!
Stick to your diet
Being in the house brings with a huge amount of temptation to raid the sweet cupboard, eat beige food and use alcohol to kill time. Now I like a sweet treat and a (okay maybe more than one) craft beer as much as the next guy, but balance is key. Try your hand at cooking and embrace new foods you otherwise wouldn’t try to bring some variety and new sensations to your day/week. Remember food is energy and we need good foods to perform and stay happy. I recommend you check out the guys at Lean Lunch for more around the importance of healthy/nutritious food.
Appreciate the enforced downtime
Those jobs you have had on your list for what feels like forever… we all have them right!? Well, make a start and challenge yourself to get through one or two of them every week. It’s a nice break from the severity of the situation and leaves you with a sense of pride and fulfilment. I jet washed the patio and weeded the driveway last weekend. Winning!
Check in on others
Most of us like the sense of enjoyment we get from helping others, well now is the perfect time to do that (where it is safe to do so of course), that can be as little as asking someone if they are okay, listening and offering friendly advice, doing the shopping for a neighbour or family member if they are in self-isolation or too vulnerable to leave the house, or even volunteering in the NHS. If you work in the NHS or are one of the 405,000 people to volunteer so far, ultimate respect to you and thanks for your service to this country. It won't be forgotten.!
The virus is evolving every minute and there is more and more depressing news on every channel. Don’t let it consume your thoughts and feelings. Get in touch with colleagues and friends to change the conversation and put fun activities in place to bring some joy and cheer to your day. I’ve had virtual beers with colleagues, taken part in a Zoom pub quiz, played hide and seek with the dogs, and laughed out loud at my team-mates attempting Tik Tok challenges. Just because times are hard doesn’t mean we can’t laugh and have fun!
Finally, stay positive!
A lot of people keep saying how important it is to accept that we have no control over the situation. Don’t get angry, accept things will improve and get easier if we control the controllable. Take a glass half full approach and think of all the things to be thankful for right now and enjoy them as much as you can.
I hope that helps in some small way. We will get through this, and I am convinced that we will be better for it. Stay safe.