Work dictates the routine

August 31, 2020

As we exchanged office based roles alongside our colleagues for longer-term lone remote home-working during lockdown, many of us were grateful to immerse ourselves in the natural momentum arising from our surreal new circumstances.

In the world of internal communications, nothing was more important for our team than quickly entering a rhythm of following, interpreting and communicating ever changing government guidance for the benefits of our workers. Establishing soon to be familiar, regular virtual engagement and briefing sessions with senior leadership groups kept me in particular, very busy.

In past years, I’d always found it hard to discipline myself (the daily ‘work mode’ me) into an efficient hard start and hard stop every day. I’d be so engrossed in something, coupled with invariably trying to juggle several deadlines, that I’d start early and finish late. Breakfast and lunch breaks were always taken at my desk. Every day felt full-on. I often allowed work to be the daddy when it came to dictating a routine.

This is a sticky path to follow at the best of times as it means that personal and social commitments are put under pressure. One could argue during a pandemic though, ‘what social commitments?’ However your non work time is your own time regardless of what you fill it with.

One can only maintain break-neck speed for so long before starting to experience various symptoms of burn out. After a while, the days of the week blur together, days morph into nights and the weeks merge into months which soon fly past. You start to feel more fragile emotionally and irrational thoughts begin to cloud your ability to make effective decisions. There’s also a high probability that sleep, that most restorative of states, eludes you.

Prolonged sleeplessness fuelled by stress or anxiety, can after a time, affect not only your mental health but your physical wellbeing too. More serious impacts can include obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Sleep is our time to repair, resolve and renew and it forms the foundations of our overall wellbeing.

For these reasons, having a transactional task-oriented outlook to work without boundaries is punishing even for those who profess to thrive on it and brandish their  badge of honour. Is it a good behaviour to role model to others if you’re leading a team?

Like everyone else, I had no idea how long this explosive pandemic would last nor the sheer scale and impact of the change we would all be enveloped in. At a personal level certain changes were quite brutal and upsetting, however close friends have lost relatives, others have lost livliehoods and I consider those changes to be the most brutal of all so practicing gratitude for what you do have, is important.

Early on though, mindful, despite the blur of an intense workload, that whatever happened, I needed to take care of both my mental and physical wellbeing, I knew that establishing a routine and good habits was vital. Having a structure would be important.

After an initial online soiree with Mr Wicks, I moved onto daily morning  ‘Lockdown YogaBurn with Zoe’, evening walks, weekend cycle rides and preparing my breakfast and lunch the night before and boxing them up ready to grab and go. I’d batch cook soups and roti’s at the weekend utilising loads of lovely veggies.

I made sure that I turned off the laptop rather than leaving it on but locked and ‘left’ the home office for the day.

I occupied myself with non work related tasks around the house or the odd call with friends. I even kept checking in with my local Slimming World group, paying a tenner a month to weigh myself then text it in!! The focus shifted for me from work dictating the routine to my routine dictating the boundaries between work and personal life.

I believe these are good habits that have stood me in good stead for whenever we move to what comes after this continuing totally remote phase. I’m already visualising myself returning to the office, with my thoughts led by how I can build work around my new routine.