I like many others have seamlessly made the switch to 100% virtual work. My home office is my new haven, my camera and microphone on my computer are working just fine. My calendar looks just like it did before we all went into mandated stay at home orders of self-isolation. We are getting into the groove (sort of) of eLearning and homeschooling….AND I am EXHAUSTED.
I keep reading how people are enjoying the additional time to read, to cook, be outside more, connect with their spouses and kids more. However, I am not finding this to be the case for me, my peers, or my clients. Organizations don't seem to be slowing down and my clients are in back to back meetings (just like when everyone was in the office). Work is carrying on exactly as it did before the kid’s schools closed and only essential businesses were allowed to be open. I am finding people in the corporate world are EXHAUSTED. They feel the need to prove they are working, to be present, to produce at the same clip they did before while also juggling young children being home, making sure school work is getting done, kids are getting on their multiple required conference calls for school, caring for aging parents, or all of the above.
I know because my clients showcase the shear exhaustion in their faces and I can hear it in their voices. I know because I hear their kids in the background or even get the pleasure of seeing them on the screen as they crawl into their parent’s lap needing attention. I know because they tell me about having to juggle the kids while their spouses are working either at home, or their spouses are away from home because they are considered essential, or they are a single parent trying to manage it all alone.
Here is my mandate…you officially have permission to SLOW DOWN. You have permission to tell your leader(s) your personal situation. You have permission to decline meetings and request they get moved out. You have permission to block your calendar to help your kids with their schoolwork, take a mental break by going outside, make and eat lunch with your kids and spouses. You have permission to go to the grocery store during the day and not at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. because you are required to be present/online during "normal" working hours. You have permission to miss the 8 a.m. call and sleep in, make breakfast, or just enjoy a cup of coffee with your partner.
As a leader, you have permission to slow down. As a leader, you have permission to slow the pace of your teams. As a leader, you have permission to take the time to understand every one of your people's situations and determine a plan to best support them. If your team members have young children, they are struggling to keep them occupied during the day which means they are probably doing work late into the night. As a leader, you have permission to block your team members calendars to allow for mental, physical and/or emotional breaks. As a leader, you have permission to acknowledge your emotions of anxiety, fear, exhaustion, hope, anger.
We are in unprecedented times, everyone has acknowledged that, so why are we acting like work must continue at the same clip? Maybe we think it’s because if work stays the same, this will give us a feeling of normalcy. However, these are not normal times. We are in this for at least another 30 days, probably longer. Let's pace ourselves, let's slow down, let's figure out a sustainable "new normal" when it comes to working. Let's give each other and ourselves the permission to slow down.