As I write this, most of us in the United States are marking one month of stay at home and work from home orders to mitigate the public health impacts of the coronavirus. Those of us who are working from home recognize it’s a privilege to do so and have enormous gratitude and admiration for the health care workers, grocery store clerks, delivery people, first responders and so many others who are going to work so the rest of us can stay home.
That said, staying home and working from home can present some unexpected challenges. The biggest one that I’m noticing in talking with my clients and observing myself is that many of us are actually putting in more hours working from home than we did pre-pandemic. That’s not at all what I expected when we started this new phase a month ago. In the early days of WFH, my expectation for my clients was since their commuting time was going to shrink from “home to office” to “bedroom to den,” they would suddenly have way more time available to them during the day than they did at the end of February.
Initially, I thought, “Great, everyone will have more time to sleep and work out.” What’s happening instead for most people I talk with is that they’re spending that found time on more Zoom meetings. Then things get compounded by the fact that a day of Zoom after Zoom means you’re sitting at your desk even more than usual. Before you know it, it’s dinner time and you haven’t done anything in terms of physical, mental, relational or spiritual routines that help you be at your best for yourself, your family, team, colleagues, customers, etc. You’re sitting more than you’re used to because all of your meetings are in front of a screen and there’s no conference room down the hall that you have to get up and walk to. You’re not going out for lunch or coffee since you’re doing your meet-ups virtually from home. As one client pointed out to me last week, your brain is becoming rewired from the lack of fresh visual input when you drive back and forth to work. The days run together because they all feel exactly the same. As I wrote to a client in an email this morning, “Happy Monday – second verse, same as the first.”
So, what can we all do about this? As it happens, this is also the period that in normal times a lot of people would be taking Spring Break trips with their families. One of my CEO clients reminded me of that when we talked last week. He, his leadership team and everyone else in their financial services company have been working overtime these past four weeks to take care of their customers and each other. He told me that he asked his leaders to pick a weekday or two in the next couple of weeks to go offline for a mini, stay-at-home Spring Break to renew and refresh the health and well-being of themselves and their families.
That’s good advice for all of us. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you don’t need a little Spring Break time away from the WFH routine. And, when you’re working that routine, make sure to schedule little breaks throughout the day that get you out of your seat and away from the screen.
In following my own advice, I took an extended nature walk today and found the guy in the accompanying photo along the way. It brings me a small sense of peace to consider that this bird has no idea there’s a pandemic going on. It’s just another day in the pond for him.
So, this would normally be the point in the post where I’d give you a little list of things to do to take a break. I’m not going to do that this time. You know what to do. Please do it. Take care of yourself and stay healthy – physically, mentally, relationally and spiritually.
Please share what you’re doing to take care of yourself during the pandemic. We’ll all benefit from the collective wisdom.