Today marks day four of not washing my hair. Allegedly not washing is better for your hair than washing, so why not use this enforced lockdown to trial this theory? I am struggling though, not just with my hair (and roots and the grey) but the whole working from home situation. From boardroom to bedroom working, I’m sure many of you are facing this struggle too.
Fortunately I don’t have small children to contend with and, as such, am extremely relieved I don’t have home schooling thrown into this melting pot that is dealing with life in lockdown.
But I do have a number of staff furloughed and the rest working remotely, and this in itself has been a challenging thing to adapt to and deal with, trying to continue to manage client expectations whilst at the same time supporting my team. There are certainly added levels of complexity and challenge in our everyday roles.
Communication is absolutely the key. Not just with clients but with everyone. And communicate more than normal, which can be an effort when we are all working remotely and, let’s face it, feeling lost and a little bit scared. But Microsoft Teams has been brilliant in keeping in touch with the team, as has Zoom, which clients have been able to access and has worked remarkably well. And we need to communicate more now with each other than ever.
I have set up a weekly Microsoft Teams dial in, mostly just for chitchat and catch up, leaving the more serious conversations to weekly one-on-ones. These weekly catch ups have proved invaluable in maintaining contact, support and some semblance of normality. Staying connected helps us all through this difficult time.
Having a structure also helps. Getting up as normal (although without the daily hair wash I can have an extra 15 minutes in bed), and settling into a normal working day is crucial and having routine definitely supports productivity and balance. Studies have shown that working from home can increase productivity by 13%. Which is great. We just have to remember to set boundaries and switch off!
Once the work is done minimise your exposure to all things digital. Read a book, take your hours exercise, get out and expose yourself to the elements (even if the sun doesn’t continue to shine), rediscover something you used to love doing but never had the time, perhaps even learn to play an instrument.
For those who are trying to balance working from home and dealing with childcare and/or home-schooling being organised is key. Ensure you have optimised your sleep, scheduled some breaks to eat something nutritious and healthy (having a furloughed Husband has its benefits) and maybe even take a conference call outside!
But don’t beat yourself up about what you do or don’t achieve daily – we have to take each day as it comes. And some days are most definitely harder than others. Our clients have been incredibly understanding and supportive throughout this. Many don’t even expect us to be still functioning, so it’s wonderful when they get a call or email from us about their case and they are so pleased we are doing what we can to progress their claim and support them. This helps take a little stress out of the situation and we really appreciate their understanding.
Because the stress levels are definitely heightened and I’ve been doing my best to keep this under control but it isn’t always easy. I miss my office, the familiarity of my desk, the helpful colleagues, the IT team who come to my aid when something doesn’t work, the friendly banter in the kitchen whilst making a drink. All of those things are part of my usual working day and life, and I miss them enormously. I miss those breathers, the time out to move away from the desk and the stressful job that’s growling at me. It’s so much harder at home to deal with that stress because there is no getting away from it.
But we must find ways to do that, to harness that stress and make it work positively. Let it make you more task driven, more focussed, more productive. Not less. Which comes back to communication. If things are getting a bit on top of you, take time out, ring/FaceTime a colleague, do something fun such as a virtual meeting that’s themed Hawaiian style for example. Just something to laugh about and help you to de-stress. A problem shared is a problem halved. And don’t leave it too late – ask for help early. Everything is operating at a slightly slower pace than normal, so remember that, we need a bit more time to canvas help, or get something sorted. And equally, a slightly slower pace of life is no bad thing. And who knows, maybe we will never go back to that fast paced life, where we deprioritised everything other than work. Maybe this was a breakthrough we didn’t know we needed!
Certainly, we will operate in a very different way once lockdown is over and we resume working as we did before. Many of us will continue to work agile, and not spend as much time in the office. Many of us will have learned new skills we didn’t think we were capable of, particularly on the IT side. And hopefully this has given us all the chance to re-evaluate life and give us all a bit of a breather.
And some of us may never wash our hair again.
Kate Sweeney, author of “Working from home – it’s good to talk” is a Partner and Head of Personal Injury for Stephensons Solicitors LLP and MASS Regional Co-ordinator for the Manchester Region.