Well, this is a proper shit storm isn’t it? What now? What is the purpose of work now?
I went on holiday for a month, and by the end of it the world had changed. This is properly like something out of a science fiction movie. A deadly alien virus is spreading across the whole world, forcing people to fight over toilet rolls and hand sanitiser in order to protect themselves and their families. Many of us are afraid to go outside, but others are invading their country’s beauty spots in hordes, ensuring the terrible virus can proliferate and continue its lethal crusade. How will this all end? Will the team of scientists, led by someone who will be played by Jeff Goldblum, be able to find the vaccine in time to save humanity? Who will play Boris Johnson and Donald Trump? (Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey? Oh, maybe Alec Baldwin for Trump.)
Is being happy at work still a priority?
Kind of screws up my main message of learning to be happy at work. Suddenly, we’re not at work. Confusion reigns. Many non essential workplaces are now closed for at least the next few weeks, meaning that people don’t have to go to work. So how are we responding to all this sudden free time? Others are still working, but from home.
Unless you’re a key worker. We now find that low paid and undervalued workers are vitally important. Supermarket assistants and delivery drivers. Cleaners. Care staff. Refuse collectors. Bus and train drivers. As well, of course, as those traditionally loved but exploited and taken for granted health workers, the doctors, nurses, porters, technicians, who are now going even more above and beyond than they usually do.
So I guess that being happy at work is not a priority right now. If you’re in one of those key roles, your purpose, if it wasn’t of prime importance before, is suddenly brought into sharp focus. In a crisis, many people focus just on what needs to be done, and most other things become less important.
Working from home
There’s been a lot said about those people working from home for the first time. I totally get how difficult it is to structure your day when you are solely responsible for doing so. I’d got systems in place myself, having honed and refined them over several years of it. But even then, coming back from a full month break, It has somehow taken me five days to get to the point of sitting at my desk to write. Part of that is the result of having family members at home when I didn’t before, but mostly it’s about working out how to get back to my routine of work time, exercise time (especially now I can’t go to the gym), other self care like meditation and prepping healthy food, domestic responsibilities, family time, leisure time…. So for someone doing this for themselves for the first time, it’s bound to be confusing. Throw in the social distancing and self isolation, and it will have an effect on your mental health. And then if you weren’t fully engaged with your purpose when you were at the place of work, you may feel it’s even more pointless now.
Not working but staying home
And if you’re off work, but not working from home because it’s not something you can do from home – the construction industry, which hopefully is starting to see sense and send people home, manufacturing, non essential shops, restaurants, then you have the same issues of structuring your day, without any work to provide a purpose.
I think there are three main issues in learning how to deal with this new situation
- Structuring our time
- Dealing with our emotions and protecting mental health
- Finding a purpose
And it’s helpful to deal with those in reverse order. If we’re clear on our purpose, then we have more strength to deal with our emotions, and it becomes easier to structure our time and use it in the ways that serve us best. In the meantime, be kind to yourself and realise that this is a stressful situation on so many levels.
I’m gearing up to record some new #abookinfiveminutes, and it’s as if the universe was speaking to me. While I was on holiday I took out a kindle unlimited subscription, and found a couple of books on there that seemed interesting. Unbusy by Andy Dragt, and Master your F*cking Emotions by Francis Wayne Jr. So both tailor made for this situation 😊. Look out for those, the first one will be out on Saturday.
Edit: Here's the link to the first review. This book addresses the issues of purpose and of structuring your time.
Meanwhile, let me know which of these situations you find yourself in by leaving a comment for me below.
- Key worker, so still at work
- Working from home (including self employed so I always was)
- Staying at home, not working
Photo is of the Victorian Parliament building in Melbourne Australia on 19th March 2020. Public buildings were closed down while we were there as Australia reacted to spread of the virus. The news was full of announcements about social distancing, but the message didn't seem to have fully got through.