Working During A Pandemic is Not The New Normal

As we approach month ten in the pandemic I’m consistently hearing sources discuss the idea that we need to develop a plan for the new normal. Well, in 29 years of living I’ve never experienced a pandemic before so in my frame of reference none of what we are experiencing is normal. A mass extinction the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Spanish Influenza, record unemployment, higher business failure, the list goes on and on. I fortunately have been able to retain my job during this time and refuse to accept that I am working from home. No instead I argue that I’m working through a pandemic from my home. I want to debunk some “New Normal Myths” that I hope to make it easier for some of us to cope during this time.

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

Really, read the title of this section again. It’s okay to not have any idea what to do right now. It’s okay to feel the way you may feel and even more so there is no mandate to be okay. Let’s be real life is already stressful enough, but throw a pandemic into it, and we are now in what my friend Glenn calls a “global timeout”. Parents are being tasked with not only keeping a roof over their heads, but to become part-time school educators as well. Loved ones are being forced to make the choice to isolate and go long periods of time without seeing each other. One thing I’ve done to start tracking my mood and understanding what’s going on around me is to use an app called Daylio. It’s an application that prompts you at various points of the day to tap your mood and input some small notes about what you’re doing and or how you feel. I’ve noticed that this is helped me somewhat, but also there are days when I’m just not up to being okay. It is normal to not be okay right now, my only advice is to not stay in that place long.

Your Mental Health Is More Important Than Your Job

One thing I’ve noticed more advertisements than ever before across all mediums for mental health councilors. As the pandemic wears on and 2020 seems to get worse every day, many are finding that their basic emotional needs aren’t being met in this climate. This is leading to heightened depression rates, suicide, and more as people are just trying to survive. Based on my personal experience and what has been shared with me by others it seems that many organizations are content with enforcing hard standards for being present during work without providing the resources to take care of their most basic needs.

As a manager, I feel it’s my responsibility to check the mental state of my team regularly and find ways to support them as needed. This has ranged from being someone to vent at to bringing them food to make sure they can eat. As leaders within an organization during a pandemic the ways we normally engage with our employees has to change. As the employee I realize this may be a hard choice, but it’s better for you to protect your health than to burnout from over work. I’ve seen what that leads to and I can promise you’re not useful to yourself or others in that state. If you are finding it hard to get support from your manager almost every medium to large company that I’m aware of has an EAP program that serves to offer support resources to employees. To the best of my knowledge they aren’t allowed to report anything you request or share with your employer other than that fact that someone used EAP.

Set Up A Regular “Work” Routine

For those of us who are working from home, I get it. Wake up, roll into your work space, then roll onto the couch whenever you decide to finish work. Along with this comes with forgetting what day it is, longer than normal working hours, and asking the oh so infamous “when’s the last time I showered”? My best suggestion is to set a consistent work routine and don’t negotiate on it. There are a number of places you can look for suggestions on this, personally I’ve been following this article here. I try to make sure that I incorporate a number of breaks throughout the day. I just ordered a standing desk since I spend at least 8 hours a day staring at a screen.

Connect With People

This one is pretty simple, find ways to talk and connect with others. That last thing any of us need right now is to get stuck in our heads without any support. I’ve found a small community on Twitter for developers and have been to a number of Meetup events. I’ve made a number of friends from attending events from there and built a great support system. Do not try to get through all of this alone.

Take Care of Yourself First

As you continue to work and live through the pandemic his is just a gentle reminder to put yourself first. There is nothing more important than you continuing to do whatever you need to make it through this year and pandemic.

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