Tuesday, 16 June 2020

‘There's too much f**king perspective now’:

Working - with friend. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
I wrote this article for the Arma magazine, The Protagonist, in March, at the beginning of the lockdown. Three months on and the shock of adjustment has softened somewhat, but the advice still stands. The Canadian government's wrote that you're not 'working from home', but rather 'at home, during a crisis, trying to work'. It's a subtle but important difference, and one I try to convey in this piece. 

With the coronavirus lockdown, we’ve all had to adjust to a new way of working, and - if Twitter is to be believed - this often involves cats sitting on our keyboards and children playing around our legs.

There has been no shortage of advice to help us cope with this. Many journalists are seasoned freelancers, and have rushed to offer tips on how to survive homeworking. These include setting up a clear and defined space to work, being more disciplined with our schedule, building in time to exercise, and reaching out to connect with co-workers. Some of these are easier said than done, of course.

One thing that has had less coverage is the difficulty in maintaining focus and motivation, and not feeling like a failure when others seem to be doing it much better. It’s not just that there are many more distractions at home, from helping children with their school work to that all important date with Bargain Hunt (BBC1, 12:15pm). Rather, with the world exploding outside our windows, it’s hard to see the point in wrestling the Je-S form or hunting down the perfect funding opportunity. As David St Hubbins put it in the film This is Spinal Tap, ‘there's too much f**king perspective now.’

Of course, there are some jobs that are unavoidable, and for which there would be significant financial or professional consequences if they were ignored. Regardless of the zombie apocalypse outside, financial claims still need to be filed and the REF return still needs to be prepared - despite its unspecified postponement.

However, for those of us who work in areas that are less driven by such deadlines, keeping on keeping on is a challenge. As a consequence, we can have feelings of inadequacy: everyone else seems to be much more motivated, and coping much better, than you.

One person who has recognised this is Prof Athene Donald of Cambridge University. ‘It is too easy to believe that everyone else is managing better than you, balancing the new demands, the new technology and the new external circumstances. They may just be better at masking their feelings.’

Be kind to yourself, counsels Donald. ‘Do what you can, recognize that the average human cannot change mental gears at speed, or adjust to a different (and scary) physical world without a hiccough.’

So don’t beat yourself up if it takes a little time to adjust to the new normal. You may not be as productive in the first days or weeks of lockdown. Just surviving and remaining positive is an achievement. Yes, do try and be strict with your home-working regime, and yes, learn to wrangle the technology necessary to make a success of it. But if you need time to mentally adjust, that’s fine.

Make friends with this particular elephant in the room. You don’t want it to sit on your keyboard with your cat, of course, but accepting and allowing it to look over your shoulder is an important first step in looking after your mental health, and that should be a priority for all of us in these difficult times.

No comments:

Post a Comment