And so, it is March again. The earth has completed a full circuit around the sun. Memories of the start of the pandemic have returned with vivid resonance. And what a year it has been. A year like no other.
It feels like a huge body of work has been completed. Alongside all our massively diverse personal journeys. A smaller world has been inhabited. New societal, familial and professional routines established. And all our attitudes and expectations rebooted. We all imagine what life and work might be like in the future.
Today, like many days before it, has been yet another ‘working from home’ day. All the necessary work tasks have been covered; I’ve written, sold, negotiated, and supported. I also found time to cook, garden and tidy-up. There’s even been some dabbling with a little artwork. All whilst also having the latest box-set on in the background, and keeping up with the news.
Don’t make the mistake of admiring my varied day. This isn’t multi-tasking to be celebrated or held in awe. It’s a lockdown condition. One of filling the day with all sorts of activity to build a personal sense of accomplishment, achievement, distraction and anxiety-energy-spending purpose. All with the hope of feeling tired enough at the end of the day to sleep well enough to make it through the night. I admit however, that it was a balanced day today, one containing breaks and short bursts of work- and home-based activities. That is encouraging.
It’s a familiar story. Friends and colleagues tell me of the compulsion to work, filling days to the brim with productive activity, as the online laptop world extends to fill the gaps that the lack of commuting or travelling time has opened-up. So many of us are working through the week, a week of longer days and an annual leave sheet building up of unspent days. Book annual leave? To do what, where and how we ask. We can convince ourselves that our productivity has skyrocketed. But at what cost? It certainly and clearly has encroached upon our right to spend days doing nothing at all.
There is a serious business to all this. And a moral purpose. I’m working hard to drive and steer two businesses through the change necessary to sustain them for now and through the next months and years. The difficult, necessary and forward-thinking decisions have been made and acted upon. The businesses are different to how they were 12 months ago. I have observed how the pandemic has fast-forwarded developments in many businesses. These processes require leaders to absorb much of the conscious and unconscious pressure and anxiety of staff teams – including those staying, changing their roles, and those choosing to leave or being asked to explore new pastures. Leaders need to consider how this energy, that emotion and these feelings reverberate within themselves and in the business and staff teams moving forward. The echoes of this incredible experience will be felt for longer than most might imagine. Staff teams and leaders must invest in and apply as much effort in processing and understanding as they have done working to save their jobs and businesses. That calls for lots of open communication, and access to talking and other therapies, and coaching and mentoring.