I’ve been working at home for a little over six months now. I can split that period into two three-month chunks – before Teddy and after.
One of those periods felt less stressful than the other. And despite the convenience of a three-month old baby to blame, I don’t think that gives the full picture.
Last night, when reading messages in a group chat of communications colleagues from across the country and in different sectors, I noticed that lots of us are struggling. Most of that group don’t have new babies, either.
So, what is going on? I think it’s a few things.
Six months ago, coronavirus and lockdown hit us suddenly. While we could all see the situation in Wuhan and the far east developing, when it reached the UK, we moved quickly into lockdown.
For many communicators, this meant dusting off emergency and business continuity plans at the same time. As anyone who has managed a crisis will tell you, when that happens, the adrenaline starts pumping.
And it keeps pumping. For longer than you might realise. As we talked of a new normal, the reality was getting some sleep and then responding to the next challenge – as my old manager used to say, “I’ll crash into that bridge when I come to it.”
But that can’t continue indefinitely. In the group discussion lots of us talked about the meetings we have: the meetings that bookend the working day, and the ones that are sandwiched next to others. The ones that mean we have little time for actions – the actions that inevitably flow from them.
We’re all now preparing for a second wave, when truthfully, we’ve not really dusted ourselves off from the first. We might have taken some leave, but it’s rarely been totally free of work – either because we stay connected or because we can’t miss the news and the opportunity to ponder how an announcement will impact on our organisations.
So, the second wave means the opportunity, or necessity, of reflecting on what did and didn’t go well six months ago, and how we can improve things now. That probably requires more work. At the very least, it requires more thinking time. I’m not sure many of us have that.
The truth is, it’s harder to go again.
We’re six months in and have just heard that new measures might last another six months. Not only do we have to try and come to terms with this, we have to do so while helping colleagues to do the same.
And we must do this while trying to avoid overcommunicating. If we’re tired, so are other people. If we struggle to take everything in and understand what it means for us, then so do others.
As someone said to me today, it feels like we’re trying to get people to take a drink out of a fire hose.
The reality of Covid-19 is that there isn’t much we can do to change this. What we can do is remind people of the value of communications. We can ask our leaders to consider the prioritisation of the messages they wish to communicate. We can remind them that everyone is exhausted and overwhelmed, and it’s our job to help them navigate this.
The final thing we can all do, is remember that others are in the same boat. It was a relief to read the messages from people I admire and respect saying the same thing about being overwhelmed. Check in with those people. Hearing their challenges can help put your own into perspective, and it can also help us find common solutions.
If you’re reading this and don’t feel in the same boat, take a quick look around your colleagues. Are any of them showing warning signs that you’ve not noticed? If so, help them. In any way you can.