An overnight change in worklife
Within the space of a week the routine I have honed for many years was brought to a grinding halt. With hundreds of thousands of people affected, it was not a matter of “should I isolate” but “I am going to isolate, how should I do it productively”. Being productive during this difficult time means not just looking after the emails, but oneself. The mental burden isolation can carry is immense and it should not be underestimated. So here is my battle plan for the next few weeks (and if need be, months).
Separation without the anxiety
One of the biggest issues I grappled with was the separation between work and home. I have always worked outside of my home. Sure, there have been “working from home days” but those were few and far between. Most importantly, there was an end date. I have to admit, I was anxious about bringing my work home. “Will be as productive at home as I am in the office?” I asked. “When does work end and home begin?” I wondered. “If I empty the laundry during the day, am I doing this on my or the company’s time?”. Obviously, I was just working myself up into a frenzy for nothing. In fact, it is highly recommended that you get up from your desk often during the day. Load the washing machine, take the rubbish out, make a cup of tea. 5-10-minute breaks every so often are encouraged. I also found that creating a specific work station was essential to separate my work/home life.
Not having an office, I did take over some of the dining table but it is now my work area. It is not a “one size fits all” situation, individuality is key. It is important for each individual to think about the conditions under which they can be most productive, taking into account workflow and emotional response.
Reading more than just emails
There is no escaping the stark realisation that the emails will not stop. I am, however, going to expand my literary horizons (and indulge in old favourites for comfort). Here is my panacea for the monotony of emails: books.
Since I am not able to travel to France, I will follow Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan on their adventures through Paris. I will people watch through the anthropological writings of Kate Fox and I will “evolve” with Daniel Dennett’s work on consciousness.
Keeping to a schedule
Isolation can be, for a lack of a better word, isolating. On average, we spend more time at work than at home. We have a schedule to follow, meetings and coffee breaks. This is an important pattern to follow. I have always woken up at 6.30am to get to work for 8am. I will still do that, whether it means indulging in a more imaginative breakfast than muesli or fitting in a longer morning jog, I will not stray far from my morning rituals. Speaking of exercise, I am fortunate to live in a remote location so my daily jog involves seeing only the sheep in the fields. I stick to the remoteness of the moors. I am also trying to utilise video-conferencing as much as possible, whether it is in my personal life with friends and family locked down across the world as well as in my worklife.