Some have lost loved ones. Some have lost their jobs and livelihoods. Some are feeling socially isolated. Some have lost their sense of purpose and identity. One woman I met in the park the other day described how her friendly, gentle golden retriever dog was suffering anxiety as rather than people rushing to pat him, they were now swerving out of his way and he didn’t understand why. The common factor is that everyone has lost something – social connection, a sense of safety and security and freedom. Our lives have been disrupted in ways previously unimaginable.
Personally, I have been juggling work – trying to keep my business going and servicing my clients whilst suddenly becoming a full-time child minder for my gorgeous, but understandably demanding 2 yo. Throw in the mix a house extension slowed down by the lockdown, with no kitchen or garden, and constant noise and dust in a house we can’t temporarily move out of. It has been trying. There have been many tears of frustration.
A wonderful client of mine said the other day that she hoped businesses, including her own employer, would learn from this experience and change the way they worked going forwards. She reflected that if we don’t use this opportunity to ditch our traditional ways of working for better alternatives, the lesson will have been lost. Wise words.
It got me thinking about what I wanted to take away from this experience and the changes I would like to make going forwards. Here’s what I’ve identified so far:
- Working in short, focused bursts, rather than long days. Through necessity, I discovered that working in focused bursts of an hour and a half while my daughter slept in the afternoon has allowed me to achieve extraordinary amounts when I put my mind to it. By having a specific goal and putting all my attention on it I have been able to achieve things that might otherwise have taken me most of the day. I have surprised myself at my efficiency.
- Dropping the notion of a Monday – Friday work week. Currently my husband works Monday through Friday whilst I look after our daughter, and then we reverse the situation on the weekends. We will switch roles next month when his contract comes to an end, but this experience has brought into focus the fact that much of my work can be done at any time of day or night, so long as it suits my family arrangements.
- Quality family time. Despite being in the same house 24/7 for weeks on end, this is the one thing we’ve had less of during lockdown. Once this pressure eases, I want to ensure there is more quality time for the three of us to spend together. A fellow participant on a Zoom call yesterday talked about reintroducing Thursday night board games in her family. Others are doing family baking together. I love that idea.
- Having many laughs a day. Our house extension, delayed by lockdown, has meant we have been without a garden for seven months and without a kitchen for two months. As someone who is a self-confessed ‘home body’ this has undoubtedly put a strain on my mental health. But without the option of moving out we have had to accept what we cannot control and try to find the positives in the situation. Having my 2yo around 24/7 has meant we have many, many moments in the day where I get to see the wonder of the world through her eyes and we laugh together frequently. I love that and I definitely want more of that in my post-covid world.
- Incorporating nature – even in suburbia. With a toddler in the house needing stimulation I have taken to using my daily exercise outing to walk her to the local park. The park really has been my salvation during these testing times with the beauty and serenity of the park and its duck pond bolstering my mental health enormously. Besides, who doesn’t like seeing ducklings?
It is worth remembering that this period of collective stress and anxiety won’t last forever. In the words of HM Queen Elizabeth II: “We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again… We will succeed and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return”.
What are the lessons that you are taking from this experience? What changes do you intend to make in the post-covid era?
Sharon Peake is an occupational psychologist, career coach, gender diversity expert, and the founder of Shape Talent, a boutique consultancy established to help enable more women to step up into senior leadership roles in business.