It’s time to be honest about working from home…

This week, I was going to publish a super easy-to-write blog celebrating some innovative and festive PR campaigns I’ve seen on social media.

But in all honesty, the last working week has been a mentally exhausting one for me and I think it’s important to recognise when we’re stretching ourselves a bit thin.

It seems that working remotely has led to higher expectations. Or rather, I’ve created higher expectations for my own work, because I’m working remotely.

What I mean by this is, often in the office we’d find our days were frequently interrupted, whether that be because we were catching up with colleagues, getting involved in creative chatter or supporting co-workers with a problem.

Of course, we still met deadlines and delivered all of the work expected of us, but the timescales for this work may have been different in the ‘old world’ because the other stuff took up a lot of time.

Today, there are less distractions. There are less people popping their head round the door and asking for ‘five minutes’, when what they really want is to pull you into a meeting they forgot to invite you to.

As a result, we’re getting through a LOT more ‘tangible’ work. Personally, I find the amount of stuff I’m able to write, schedule and physically produce has increased throughout lockdown thanks to less distractions.

The quality of the work I’m delivering has also improved, which is great! But, I’ve noticed that this has led to a new kind of pressure.

The more work we get through, the more comes our way, which over time can mount up until you’re working until 7pm trying to sort through your list for the next day.

Every now and then, this isn’t a problem. Or it wouldn’t be if we didn’t have to also contend with a significant rise in the number of virtual meetings throughout the working day.

It’s getting increasingly more difficult to manage our time productively because our new working from home life has led to the expectation that you must attend all meetings because you’re clearly at home. But this isn’t sustainable and can hinder the work we deliver.

Over the last week, I’ve been thinking about what I want my working life to look like in 2021. I want to be excited, not stressed. Another big one for me is gaining the confidence to set boundaries and to protect time for thinking space, rather than feeling like I need to accept every single meeting just because I obviously don’t have anywhere else to be.

However, that assumption isn’t necessarily correct. Physically I might be at home but mentally, I might need to be somewhere else, thinking about something else.

I get really annoyed with myself if I can’t put my all into a piece of work. I don’t do things half-heartedly so, rather than dipping my hand into 10 projects in a day, I want to prioritise a handful of super important ones and put all of my energy into them.

I read a really interesting blog this week about nurturing relationships to improve comms by Nafisa Shafiq, comms manager over at Leeds Uni and member of ‘A Leader Like Me.’

I felt like I was meant to read that blog because I came across it after a particularly busy and mentally tiring day.

I’d received some tricky emails, used my brain A LOT and only managed to find 15 minutes to walk my dog. It was one of those days where there are so many thoughts, ideas and anxieties whirring around the brain but ordering them is difficult. This blog gave me some perspective.

Specifically, I like the ‘silence is golden’ and ‘be empathetic’ points. Being the loudest in a meeting or talking without actually having something to say isn’t the way to make an effective impact.

Speaking strategically, being silent when we need to and absorbing what other people are saying are key skills. This quiet time will also allow us to order our thoughts and give more meaningful and professional responses.

And, when we do respond, it’s important to be empathetic. Everyone is under some kind of pressure and ultimately, we’re all just trying to do our jobs well. Empathy builds relationships and good relationships mean great work.

So, if you’re like me and need a bit of perspective every now and then, here are some helpful tips:

  • Recognise your triggers. Make it a new habit to acknowledge a stressful thought and be rational when dealing with it. Owen O’Kane’s book ‘Ten Times Happier’ is great at helping us to acknowledge that ‘thoughts aren’t facts’!
  • Focus on what you can control. As comms people, we’re hardwired to prepare for all circumstances and we don’t like to feel out of control but it’s important to remember that we’re only one person and we can’t do everything!
  • Try not to ruminate on things that go wrong. Owen’s book thoroughly explores ‘rumination’ and how that can impede happiness. Acknowledge what happened, make a note of your learning points and move forward.

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