As Arianna Huffington pointed out in a recent Forbes interview, the pandemic has combined three of the largest and most important institutions in our lives: work, family, and school. To cope, Arianna suggests making micro-step changes. Not big, but they add up and make life better – and hopefully address issues of burnout.
Because there is no book to read with all the answers on how best to work during a pandemic or a global crisis– and because what each of us needs varies, we can do what we do best at PTC Therapeutics: share ideas and let the best ideas work for each of us.
Here are mine:
Block Out Your Professional Calendar – I now block one hour for lunch every day. It looks like a meeting to you, but it’s a break for me and a chance to eat, go outside, breathe deeply – whatever I need to do. I start and end each day at reasonable times. On my wife’s birthday, which was on a workday, I blocked the late afternoon so I could celebrate dinner with her and not be frazzled. Work with your manager and teammates to set work times and then let your family know your schedule. Some days will be long – which is the way things were when we worked onsite, too – but the key to coping is blocking out “me” time when you need it.
Schedule Quick Calls / Texts in Place of Hallway Chats – Remember how productive the few minutes before and after an important meeting are when we’re together in person? Remember how we used to stand outside an office and conduct powerful business? Remember how we would take a minute and ask how someone is doing, ask about something special in their life, and share a bit about ourselves? Don’t ignore your need for small talk. Have a quick call or text when you need to connect with your peers. Be it business or personal chatter, you need to find humanity when you’re apart.
Focus on Your Wellness – Schedule some time to do something that renews you. For me it’s walking and playing drums. Find something. Do it. Take care of yourself. Schedule the important stuff – actually put it on your calendar. This IS important stuff. I find with a smartphone, I don’t need to be tethered to my laptop. I can step away from my desk with the reassurance that, if there is an emergency, I’m connected.
Limit Zoom Meetings – Zoom meetings may have made remote participation more democratic; however, anything good used in excess can become bad. If you feel Zoomed out, turn off your camera and relax in your chair during the next meeting you’re not leading. Exercise your voice and let your company leaders know if you have videoconference fatigue. Perhaps there are company solutions – that balance the need for individual flexibility with more care in how many Zoom meetings we schedule.
Don’t Let Email Manage You – Not all emails are created equal. As the COVID-19 Task Force Chair, I have kept an eye out for COViD-19 related emails and respond immediately when called upon. Most emails, however, I review and respond to in the evening – AFTER Zoom meetings, a walk with my wife and dogs, and dinner, when I’m refreshed. My responses probably have a better tone than if I had just responded to all my email after many hours of meetings.
Remember: Just because someone sends you an email at night, doesn’t mean you have to answer at night (see #1).
Practice Recognition and Gratitude – Spend some time every day recognizing someone doing something well. We have a company recognition system which is easy to use. You can also send a Kudos on LinkedIn. It feels great to be recognized, for sure; but it also feels wonderful to do the recognizing of others.
I hope these ideas will help us at PTC maintain the joy of being part of a great cause while avoiding burnout.