If I were to ask you to imagine pitch black, would you try to recreate “nothing” or a void? Nothing is ever actually pitch black; it is simply our initial perception that focuses on the immediate intensity of being thrown into the unknown.
That is the same reaction I had back when the world was figuring out how to adapt to its new everchanging and unfamiliar environment at the start of this pandemic. But then I allowed my eyes to adjust. I started to make out little pockets of light and objects. It took time and a willingness to accept my surroundings instead of shutting my eyes off to what was happening. Some people don’t even open their eyes because they are scared, but as a consequence, they miss uncovering the gems of opportunity and hope.
Everyone is experiencing this shift into a “New Normal” and this relies on us shifting our perspective to allow for positive, lasting change to be adopted. I started to reflect upon the four “What is MY New Normal” questions we shared last week and how I could keep stepping forward into my own “New Normal” and imagine what that might look like.
1. What is something you crave from your pre-pandemic work/life experience?
I am craving the prospect of certainty. It is a luxury I didn’t know that I previously had as everything these days seems to whirl by and constantly evolve. My computer seems to need updates to the newest iOS daily, and I feel as though I’ve just learned what “sipping and spilling the tea” means but that’s been old news amongst Gen Zers for ages. Needless to say, this lack of certainty is rooted much deeper in its fundamental meaning and how it is linked to basic freedoms we’ve had the opportunity to enhance our lives with.
For example, I, like many of you, had finally set aside time for a vacation. Despite my travel plans sifting through my fingers every day that the pandemic evolved, I felt my feelings of disappointment give way to the even bigger issue at hand: movement – vacation – was causing harm to other people. It was hard to think about how much I really needed a recharge in order to be more effective when I showed up to work, while at the same time knowing the consequences drastically outweighed my needs.
But then again, my needs also became more fundamental. I had a support system, access to food and water, a place to stay, and a job that I could do remotely. My core needs were more than met and I would focus my energy there.
2. Where have you created efficiencies in your new work/life set-up?
Efficiencies: Prioritizing myself and others
One of the most beautiful things about humans is that we are often attuned to the needs of others. It can also mean that the attention and care we as individuals can offer to others, our “attention and care pie” if you will, can get sliced into smaller and smaller pieces as we add to our list of priorities throughout the day. Although having a screen between myself and most of the outside world has decreased otherwise normal social interactions, it does act as a kind of filter. I feel more in control of the tasks I am being given because I have more time to reshuffle and can consider the bigger picture. I know that if by doing one more task will take away from my core needs that I need to reconsider the way I am prioritizing it. Plus, it means bigger slices of pie for everyone.
3. What is an element of your pre-pandemic workday/week that you would like to just throw right out the window?
Throw Away: Not being fully present in the moment
“Be present sometimes, but always authentically.”
It’s not hard to see that we have a productivity maximization mindset these days. For me, that has meant to fill every moment of my day with something, whether it’s work or personal.
While working from home I have been doing some self-gardening, pruning back the distracting offshoots from the things that truly matter to me. This has allowed me to discover that when I am present, I want to be 100% authentic and focused.
By taking the time to allow myself to recharge and to not feel guilty about maximizing every waking moment – and therefore only being present “sometimes” – I can now be fully 100% present and authentic with my work and not at a tired 75% (or let’s be honest, sometimes even 50%).
4. What is a systemic or cultural change that could be made within your organization that would increase your quality of life as a professional?
Systemic Change: 4-day work week
A healthy work/life balance is something I, and pretty much everyone else, strives for. Something that I, and the rest of our team at Realize, have been considering trying is a 4-day work week. It’s not that crazy – two years ago, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based company of 240 staff set out to test their productivity with a new 4-day work week model which involved working four, eight-hour days but getting paid for five. This trial was an unmitigated success as not only was the work still getting done and on time, 78% of their staff now found that they could properly manage a healthy work/life balance, an astounding increase of 24 percentage points!
Working from home has really forced me to reprioritize and reorganize my work and personal life as everything was overlapping and demanding my attention simultaneously. I’ve learned to not feel guilty about taking breaks, to be adaptable in different ways, and how to enable myself to be fully present in the moment. I encourage you to ask yourself these 4 questions and really think about what things, good or bad, working remotely or being furloughed has brought to light and what are the changes you want to embrace or throw away. Share your thoughts and the questions with your friends, co-workers, and family and start an honest discussion – we have an opportunity to look for ways to grow as individuals and redesign systems and structures to better support people as well.