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Coronavirus – The New Normal – Some Home Truths

Paul Adam Mudd, Director of the Mudd Partnership

What are we supposed to feel?

We are storytellers and map makers because of a need for permanence and certainty. What though are we supposed to now feel?

It’s difficult to feel hopeful in the face of so much uncertainty, and without language and a narrative to describe and frame how we will experience things beyond this pandemic there is a real and present danger.

If the lockdown continues too long, or there is a long-drawn-out lifting of restrictions, there could be a significant impact on mental health.

Even before anyone without a degree in epidemiology had heard of COVID_19, we were already in the middle of a mental health crisis in the UK.

And worldwide over 260 million people were struggling with depression.

It is likely that if measures to stop the spread of Coronavirus are eased in the coming weeks without a vaccine, some element of social distancing, including continuing strictures to work from home could remain in place until Autumn.

So, we’re in for the long haul

And then even the most buoyant amongst us might begin to struggle, with symptoms of depression. With a loss of motivation and energy, of purpose and resolve. All triggered by a lack of structure compounded by long periods of isolation, looming financial insecurity, perhaps the loss of loved ones, and certainly the daily stress of living with the new normal.

I hope that we can emerge from this with a new set of rules for living, working and getting on with each other better than before.

Travelling less by plane and car, shopping more locally, being a little more communitarian in our outlook,

For Socrates, a fundamental ethical question was, “How should we live?”

For understandable reasons he didn’t ask, “How should we work?”

The world’s largest work at home experiment

Over the past few weeks, we have been forced into the world’s largest work at home experiment and it hasn’t been easy.

Perhaps F Scott Fitzgerald had the foresight of proposing a remedy when he wrote, “One should be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise”

Before the COVID_19 pandemic many organisations would have viewed a wholesale shift to homeworking as untenable and Impossible.

And few would have contemplated it without putting in place a major change programme of 12-18 months to drive it forward. Yet many have now achieved the switch and made it happen in a matter of days.

What the facts tell us

One recent American workplace survey showed that the more workers were out of the office, the more innovative and successful the company.

Another US survey suggested national productivity would rise by $334 Billion (£273 Billion) per annum, if workers did their jobs from home.

Does that surprise you?

Home working employees are considerably more productive than those who work in the office, to the tune of three additional weeks per year.

After the pandemic recedes who amongst us might be asking, “What’s the point of now having a bricks and mortar office?”

That’s a discussion for another day, because as the French would say things are insolite – How it may be in the future is currently indefinable and unknowable.

Time for a new Industrial Revolution

What we do know though is that there are now over 50Billion connected devices globally. So, the past is already a foreign country where things were done differently.

As I pointed out in my previous article, the Novacene is now upon us and poised to turbo-charge all that’s gone before, and in the next few years if all that someone describes to you does not sound like science fiction, they will most likely not be telling you the whole story.

In 1924, Sidney Leavitt Pressey wrote, “There must be an industrial revolution in education in which education science and the ingenuity of education teaching combine to modernise the grossly inefficient and clumsy procedures of conventional education”

I think that it’s now time for an industrial revolution in the way we work, which paves the way for new ways of wellbeing and well becoming too.

We can no longer afford fixed or solid thinking and perhaps we should take Cicero’s wise counsel menum de tabula to heart – To know when to lay by the pencil, and embrace what may become; because change is constant, and as the current crisis reminds us the future cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty.

In the meantime, here are some practical, bite-sized and simple top tips to help you thrive when working in the home space:

 

Six Top Tips for Homeworking:

  1. Here. Now – Focus on your breath – Give your full attention to the task – Avoid multi-tasking and losing focus
  2. Take Regular Mindful Coffee Breaks – With deep breaths notice your surroundings – Then notice how you feel – Let your thoughts come and go without judgement – Be aware of the cup in your hand, the warmth you feel, and the aroma and taste you experience as you take a sip
  3. Use Mindful Post-Its – Write on a post-it daily affirmations or reminders – For example, “Today I will… Consciously pause and consider before I respond” – Place these prominently around your workspace, and if you want to go rad the mirrors around the house work well too
  4. Have Pre-Meeting Mindful Stretches – Before a Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp or conference call, stand-up and place your feet hip distance apart – Lift your hands turning your palms facing forward and open your chest – Then with deep breaths be aware of your open-body posture and the sensation of fully stretching
  5. Be a Mindful Listener – In every conversation, whether on-line, mobile or landline, really listen to what is being said – Give your full attention in the moment and listen for the ‘song beneath the words’; &
  6. Keep a Gratitude Journal – Simply write down three things each day that make you feel grateful – Gratitude precedes happiness and each time you make an entry remember to focus on your breath

Six Ways you can holistically up your game as the lockdown continues:

  1. Work On Your Self-Discipline: It’s is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it will get – Level the playing field between your ‘Present Self’ & ‘Future Self’ with a ‘Commitment Device’  –  And incentivise your actions with rewards that shape and drive positive behaviour
  2. Make Banishing Negativity Your Primary Goal: Like the song says, “Accentuate the positives & eliminate the negatives”  –  Seek out growth & development opportunities – & look for the Purpose and Passion in everything you do
  3. Develop Your Compassion & Social Conscience: You are not on your own  – You are connected through family, friends, work & beyond – Within the prevailing guidelines nurture all your relationships, and be pro-social & compassionate in all areas of your life
  4. Manage Your Stress: Stress is OK, but work on becoming Anti-Fragile e. someone that doesn’t just endure shocks and stresses, but can actually benefit from them – Be Present in your own life & ask yourself each day the right questions –  Start from where you are at and what you have got, not from where you want to be & what you want to get
  5. Improve Your Confidence: Become a continuous learner & play to your strengths –  Set yourself challenging goals –  Don’t be afraid to Practice, Practice, Practice & as you develop new skills and strengthen existing ones feel the glow; & finally
  6. Listen Actively – Communicate Robustly: Cut through the incessant noise and commotion – Listen for “The song beneath the words” i.e. practice hearing and understanding what is really being said and felt – And communicate passionately and unambiguously, without fear or favour!
 

Historically things are never the same after a pandemic and this one will be no different. We have a chance to break from our old ways of doing things and imagine our world anew.

We can choose whether we go forward encumbered with our old baggage, or travel lightly, with little luggage and a burning ambition to do and be different.

Paul Adam Mudd is a Trusted Adviser, Leadership Provocateur, Savvy Thinker, International Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Mindfulness Author, Global Well Being & Well Doing Influencer, & Director of the Mudd Partnership

In the next article in this short series for FE News, I will be making the case for a corporate mental health and well becoming strategy in the new normal and looking at the steps to develop and implement.

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