5 Lessons Learnt on Lockdown
Kosta Christofi, Head of Leadership and Management Development at Reed Wellbeing, writes…
Over the past 20 years I have been lucky enough to have roles where I am able to work from home occasionally, usually around 1-2 days per week.
And it worked perfectly for me: the chance to work at home occasionally was a great way to make up for being on the road, travelling and staying away in hotels for so much of the time, allowing me to balance my life and get the variety of work locations that I value so much.
So when lockdown happened it wasn’t a complete shock to my system, however there were some major differences: first of all, this was working from home five days a week, with no definite end in sight, and no chance to go into the office when I wanted to. Secondly, I, like so many other people, am also dealing with all the worries, concerns and stresses that the wider situation is creating.
Which has meant, even for a seasoned home-worker like myself, the past few weeks has been a major challenge, during which I have learnt lots about myself, my resilience and the world around me.
And it looks like there are more changes coming soon, although at this point the details are still unclear, mixed and often-conflicting: but the one certainty I can see is that continuous change is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
I would like to share with you the five most impactful things I have learnt over these last few weeks. As I am a Learning and Development professional I feel very fortunate to be able to identify and act upon life experience as a great teacher and take the lessons into my life going forward.
They are personal to my experience but I hope they will resonate with you, encourage you to reflect and identify your biggest learns, and take them forward for your benefit.
So here goes:
1 - Turn off the news and social media
At first I had the news on in the background all the time, but soon realised that by keeping this loop of bad news on all the time, I was just making myself feel more anxious and down, so I decided to turn that off, and replaced it with some nice soothing music, or a podcast or an audio book.
It helped me feel a lot better, and I found that I wasn’t waking up at 3:00 in the morning and imagining the worst case scenario…I also did similar with social media, as so much on there is bad news, fake news, or ignorant opinions dressed up as news.
I still check in with the news headlines once or twice a day, I know all I need to know, and I feel much more positive and energetic the rest of the time.
2 - Agree ground rules with others in the home
I am blessed to share my home with my wife and two teenage daughters, one of whom has just started her apprenticeship with a large company, completely in lockdown.
This means we all are doing different things, at different times, and have different needs of each other.
So we constantly let each other know what we need: for example when my door is closed it means I am on a call, so everyone knows to keep the noise down, same for my daughter when she is on a call with her new employer she sends us all a Whatsapp and then we keep the noise down, and so on…
By having these conversations regularly and reviewing what is working, what is not working, and how we can support each other, we get the best possible support from each other most of the time.
3 - Stick to positive routines
At the start I gave in to the temptation to have late nights as I didn’t have to get up so early (my usual commuting into London means I have to get up at 4:45am), but I quickly found that I was not sleeping so well and felt tired the next day.
I decided to go to bed early as if I was due to get up at that unearthly hour, and found that I started sleeping better again: and by getting up a little later, usually around 06:30 I find I get a lie-in of sorts, but also have time to go for a long walk, take a shower, get dressed and be ready to sign into work by 08:00.
I also found that planning in time during my day to get up, stretch, exercise, go and see my dog, and take my mind off work a few times a day, helps me keep my energy and focus levels high, meaning I stay productive all day and don’t feel burnt out.
And when I close down for the day at my set time of 5:00pm I go off for a walk again, take a shower and get changed into my “home” clothes, which helps me to end the work day and begin my evening: it also allows me something to look forward to at weekends which have their own, more relaxed, routine.
4 - Keep in touch with colleagues
I am a very social person: I love interacting with my colleagues, having some banter and sharing conversations with them.
A lot this happens naturally in the office, when we are together, without having to work at it.
I learnt very quickly that I could get hunched over my laptop and a whole day could go by without any of that energising interaction, so I have connected with some of my closest colleagues and we agreed to make an effort to speak with each other regularly: I have calls booked in my calendar and treat these as part of my routine now: I now look forward to these conversations, often with no agenda other than to catch up, have a chat, and see how each other is.
This helps me feel less isolated and more connected with my colleagues, and helps me remain positive much more than if I didn’t do this.
5 - Cut yourself some slack
Normally I am my own biggest critic: I set myself high goals and ask myself every day if I have added value to my company: I like to think I do but occasionally I have had days that are less productive than I would like.
And despite all the techniques I apply to remain engaged and productive, there are still some days when it all gets me a little down: and you know what? That just means that I am human.
None of us is totally immune to feeling this way, and I learnt not to beat myself up if the odd day here and there feels a bit like this: the important thing is to recognise it, allow it for a little while, and then to pull myself out of it.
It always works and I never spend too long feeling like this.
Well that’s my Top 5 Learns, there are many more but these are the ones with the most impact for me.
I hope you find them useful and that they help you reflect and decide how to stay healthy and productive in challenging times.