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Life in Lockdown: Lessons learned

Kamilla Mathias - 04-Nov-2020

Before lockdown, I had a good working routine. I’d get up, take the bus into work, and do my usual work day. Then, when I left the office, that was it – that was me done and I could switch off. This all changed from March when we switched to remote working.

When I started working from home, I found it quite challenging to “log off” mentally. I have my emails on my phone, and I felt like I had to keep on top of them all the time which meant it was nearly impossible for me to disconnect.

An issue I encountered was my mindset of believing I needed to complete everything ‘today’, which meant I could be working from 8am to 8 or 9pm that night. My thinking was, if I just did this half an hour of work now at 9pm, I free up some time tomorrow for other work – which became a vicious cycle.

While boundaries between work and home became blurred, there were definite positives from working from home reflected in my work. One thing was autonomy, when you’re not in the office with colleagues next to you, you start to trust yourself more and your instincts, which gives you more autonomy and belief in yourself.

The big thing that really helped me, and my advice for any employers or managers revolves around this, is being lucky to have an incredibly supportive management and team around me.

Especially at the start of lockdown and when the whole world seemed to have turned upside down, I would receive regular calls from my managers checking in, not about work but just to ask if I was ok, making sure I was getting out for fresh air and stopping to take breaks.

The regular encouragement I received from my managers and the motivational “you’re doing a great job, keep going” phrase made such a huge difference to how I felt every day.

While I’m still checking my inboxes regularly, I now have a better work life balance and it’s been down to setting little targets of what you have to get done today – including things outside work like getting out for fresh air, and walking my puppy.

From speaking with friends and family, I know many of them didn’t have the same level of support that I have in my work. My biggest advice for employers looking at how to motivate their staff and encourage productivity, especially during a difficult and uncertain time, is to really take care to check in on them and their wellbeing.

I think many of us forget sometimes how important it is to just check in with our colleagues and employers. I always felt like I could phone my manager for advice on anything.

People have started talking about mental health a lot more recently which is really good. Especially during a global pandemic, everyone’s struggling and missing interaction with friends, family and colleagues. It doesn’t take much to ask each other “are you ok?”, but in doing this we all feel more connected, supported and appreciated.

I was definitely losing myself in work at the beginning, using it as a distraction from the stress and anxiety happening around me. It was always nice to have people around me who reminded me to take time for myself.

I’ve also appreciated and learned to appreciate my team and managers on a completely new level. Instead of being colleagues, they’re now more like friends and family – people who care about me. Sometimes all you need is that one person checking in and asking if you’re ok.

Our mental health is so important, anyone who feels their wellbeing hasn’t been impacted by the last six months isn’t being honest with themselves.

While we’re all under pressure to meet deadlines and deliver targets, we don’t have to do everything, and often what we’re doing is enough.

Letting people know they’re doing enough and encouraging them to take time for themselves, focus on things other than work, and ensuring they’re also looking after their mental and physical health will go a long way to not only encouraging employees but also building a strong, happy and more resilient team.

For employers, having happy and productive workers comes much easier when you have a good team and a strong support network built into it.

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Kamilla Mathias
Associate Consultant – Executive Search & Specialist
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