This is a brief summary of an informal gathering of folk responding to an invitation to a little “Corona Therapy”. About twelve of us met via Zoom to share our challenges and some things that work for us, so far, at least. It was an open invitation through LinkedIn which we will repeat each week (at least, until it seems superfluous). Most importantly, we shared our anxieties and confusion, of which there is plenty.
Whilst many of us knew some people on the call, we were strangers to many others, nevertheless we share so much common ground now. We are all living in the same circumstances yet we are experiencing them in such widely differing ways. Those differences are changing daily as well. We have abnormality in common – a tricky and slippery notion to both express and understand.
These are the themes I took form the conversation and my interpretations. I am sharing them because it helps me think it through and because it might be useful to others (it may not, of course but whatever).
Working from home – what does this mean in March 2020? Sentiments range from comfort and ease for those who are seasoned home workers, confident and well equipped having spent years discovering how it works for them. If there is a continuum I think and those at the other end of it have never worked from home before, are not so well equipped and would never choose to do it. This is difficult and the just get on with it advice is falling on stony ground. Placed in other points along that continuum are those of us quite used to remote working but not like this and not all the time. And, of course, how do we adjust to this major lifestyle change when the world seems to be melting?
And then there are the small children… Love them as we do, Zoom and Webex do not have a feature to educate them, entertain them, keep them feeling safe and feed them well whilst you are trying to concentrate on a Word document with the pension funds of the world disappearing. Tough times in the home office – this is not flexible Friday.
This leads to a theme at the front of everyone’s minds: anxiety and fear. Everyone is living with a low level hum of worry in the background and often, in the foreground. These are all familiar to us now: contracts have been indefinitely paused and cancelled; plans are off; bills are harder to chase down. Existing work is intense and almost entirely focused on urgent new priorities for which few of us feel prepared by experience. A few stories are fresh challenges in a different way: recently redundant from work, trying to connect and find opportunities and unable to leave the house for 12 weeks, for example. There are no ready made homeworking kits for this. I feel lucky that I can nag teenagers. Some amongst us hadn’t seen a person in real life for a fortnight already.
How to make plans? This was a running question through the conversation. It might be planning for a new job (having met a new team only once before lockdown was called); planning for growing a business when all previous assumptions have been erased, planning your teams priorities and work or planning to deliver a remote project which was set to be in person. For those of us on the supplier side, many clients are sticking to what they know as opting to experiment is seen as seeking an added complication. As someone said: “what seems like a good idea to a client now? Do they know?”. For some with food retail clients, they are all, thankfully, working in the stores.
So what to do? The most important tactic, that we all appreciate, is contact and time to talk. Just hearing other people’s stories, comparing notes, thinking aloud and sharing snippets of advice feels really healthy and wholesome. Answers are not really available but sharing challenges can help gain perspective and work out what we think and how we feel. More of this is to be recommended.
Meeting new people has a real benefit as well. It helps for work, as networks fuel everything. It helps us with a sense of progress. It brings new voices into our conversations. At the moment it is more important than ever. We have an existential need to connect and need to keep finding new ways and means to support. This was a great benefit of the hang out for me.
It is also possible to laugh together. That was good.
So, the Corona Therapy Hour will be repeated each Tuesday afternoon to keep connecting and comparing notes as we pick our way forwards.
(For those who are into this stuff, in terms of tools, lacking any science, Zoom and Slack seem to be favourites and Teams is a close contender. More traditional remote meeting and webinar tools are rarely mentioned unprompted. I welcome this because few of them are any good really).