Today (Thursday 5 November) is the start of a second lockdown in England and four weeks of severe restrictions on our lives. It follows a similar approach in many other countries, in an attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19. Communicators have faced a frantic week since the announcement was made that it was coming. Staff needed to know what was happening, businesses had to work out what to say and to who, and for many public sector communicators the demands on them increased yet again.
The important thing now is to make sure that there is a balance between the pressure of work and finding some calm moments to relax. It is made increasingly difficult to achieve a balance because working at home has brought the two closer together.
In the same way that former smokers will lecture you about the perils of cigarettes, I find I spend a lot of time urging people to find this balance between work and home life. It is because for many years I failed to look after my own wellbeing often continuing to work until I was running on empty.
If you love what you do then you want to keep doing it, and if you have a pride and sense of professionalism about what you do it drives you to do more. These are not in themselves bad things but you need to be alert to what this means. You will pass over time with family or just sitting and relaxing. You will be checking your email, and then checking it and checking it just one more time. It will be the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night.
Working at top speed can be required in the earlys stages of a crisis. But it is not sustainable to continue in the same way for more than a day or two. It is why I have continually said that dealing with Covid-19 is a marathon not a sprint. Run at it as a sprint and you will quickly run out of steam and this situation is not disappearing anytime soon.
So, as we are all waking up in the weird world of tight restrictions on our lives and a growing amount of work for communicators I would urge people to take some time away from the computer. Find something that will relax you and make time to do it. Limit your access to the news unless it is absolutely required. I do three times during the day – morning, lunchtime and evening. Talk about things other than work and make time to contact friends for a chat.
This year has put huge pressure on many people. The important thing to remember is that you are precious, there is only one of you, so don’t wait until the pressure makes you crumble, take a break, talk to people, and make sure you ask for help if you need it.
Stay safe, look after yourself and take support when it is offered.